Area Male Athlete: Flyers' Eckman enjoying new spot
Collin Eckman is seizing his opportunity.
The junior shortstop was thrust into the No. 2 spot in the Little Falls Flyers’ baseball lineup. He’s done nothing but produce since then.
Eckman went 5-for-5 with two doubles in the Flyers’ 15-3 win over Perham April 14.
He followed that up by going 2-4 with a triple, RBI and a run scored in the Flyers’ 2-1 Granite Ridge Conference win over Princeton April 17. That victory improved Little Falls to 6-0 on the season. And despite going 2-4, Eckman’s batting average dropped.
“I wasn’t expecting to hit at the No. 2 spot,” said Eckman. “I was thinking more of the middle of the order. Once Josh (Wenzel) went down with an injury I was asked to step up and I think I’ve done that.
“Right now I’m seeing the ball really well. I’m really comfortable and even when I get out I’m hitting the ball hard to people. Most of them have been able to sneak by guys.”
Eckman was hitting around .650 before the Princeton game. His 2-4 performance dropped him to 15-of-27 (.556 average) for the season. He has hit a home run, two triples, four doubles and has driven in 11 runs while scoring 10 times himself.
“He’s not just making contact,” Flyers head coach John Hanowski said. “He has hit a home run and he’s getting triples and doubles. He got his home run at the Avon park, which isn’t an easy place to hit one. He’s got good hands and generates a lot of bat speed. He’s not a big kid by any means.”
Eckman returned to his shortstop position which he manned last season. He wants to pitch, but there is an ongoing debate between him and his coach about pitching.
“I kind of feel the shortstop is the leader of the defense,” Eckman said. “I love playing short. It’s one of my favorite things to do — being in the field and fielding ground balls. I just love it.”
The three-sport athlete has already exceeded his coach’s expectations for the season, especially at the plate.
“He has done a very nice job for us,” said Hanowski. “He was one of three sophomores we brought up last year and we were still able to make it to the section finals against (St. Cloud) Cathedral.
“We weren’t expecting him to hit .600, but we really expected a good season from him. He had a really good VFW year last summer. He’s really matured. He’s a very young kid for a junior, with a late summer birthday. Because he’s so young he has a lot of potential to improve, but he’s already got great hands.”
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Luke Thoma, Little Falls, hit a grand slam and pitched a complete-game victory against Albany.
Joey Hanowski, Little Falls, went 3-4 with a double and three RBIs against Albany.
Cody Weiss, Pierz, struck out 10 in a 2-0 complete-game victory against Foley.
Nathan Holm, Pine River-Backus, struck out 15 in five innings and went 4-4 with three RBIs against Nevis.
Nathan Ehnstrom, Aitkin, went 3-4 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs against Onamia.
Evan Ferdelman, Aitkin, threw a 10-strikeout no-hitter against East Central.
Golf: Andy Sorben, Crosby-Ironton, was medalist in a dual meet at Cuyuna Country Club.
Tennis: Alex Anderson, Aitkin, went 4-0 last week as a singles player and 4-1 as a doubles player.
Track and field: Nolan Michaelson, Pequot Lakes, won the 100-meter dash and long and triple jumps at the Deer River Invite.
Matt Neururer, Pillager, was part of four firsts at the Pipestone Invite.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.