Male Area Athlete of the Week: Paulbeck glad to be back on the field
Aitkin sophomore earns area athlete of the week
Drew Paulbeck couldn’t get out last week.
The Aitkin sophomore reached safely in all eight of his plate appearances to help the Gobblers split a doubleheader against Park Rapids.
Paulbeck went 2-for-2 with a double, three RBIs and two walks in Aitkin’s 5-4 loss in Game One to Park Rapids. He also struck out seven batters in 5.2 innings pitched.
In Game Two, Paulbeck continued his success at the plate with another 2-2 game where he added four RBIs, four runs scored, two walks and a triple. The Gobblers won Game Two 14-4.
“Every time I picked up the bat I was feeling good,” Paulbeck said. “The vibes around the team were good and we just had a good game plan going into it. It felt like I couldn’t miss.”
Aitkin head coach Jeremy Janzen liked how Paulbeck was attacking the strike zone early in counts.
“He got in counts that benefited him and barreled some balls up,” Janzen said. “He takes the pressure off the three and four hitters. He came up in situations with the bottom of the order getting on base with guys in scoring position and took advantage. Those are the swings that can change games. He leads by example and goes quietly about his business.”
Game One against Park Rapids was also Paulbeck’s first varsity outing on the mound.
“He attacks the zone and throws lots of strikes,” Janzen said. “He’s a smart baseball player and understands pitching and all that. His confidence for being a sophomore is exciting to see.”
In his first game of the season against Duluth Marshall, Paulbeck got the only hit for the Gobblers in their 9-0 loss.
“He knows the zone,” Janzen said. “He doesn’t chase pitches and is a disciplined hitter. He’s also confident about using all fields. He’ll drive the ball the other way and that’s important to help build confidence.”
Paulbeck is seeing his first action on the field after suffering a hip injury in the fall that kept him out of hockey all winter.
“It feels amazing to be back,” he said. “I had labrum surgery and coming back it feels like all the hard work is paying off. It was hard to keep my head up after missing a whole hockey season and seeing my team play without me as I sat and watched.”
Janzen has been impressed with Paulbeck’s work ethic to get back on the field.
“He got cleared to play just 10 days before the season,” he said. “He was working his tail off at physical therapy to get to where he is at now. He just had a fire to come back and play after missing his hockey season. The fire to want to compete is the biggest thing for him.”
Paulbeck said a friend really helped him make the full recovery to get back on the field by spring.
One of my friends broke his leg during football and was kind of going through the same thing,” he said. “We were both trying to get back for baseball season and pushed each other to get better.”
The time spent in the weight room has helped Paulbeck’s performance on the field.
“I did a lot of squats which helped with my power,” he said. “It’s great to have the teammates and coaches I have because they always pick me up whenever something happens.”
Paulbeck plays everywhere for the Gobblers including pitcher. It’s a role Paulbeck likes.
“It’s fun to be able to play wherever,” he said. “My favorite position is wherever I can help the team. Whether that’s pitcher, shortstop, third, second…wherever I can make an impact. As a pitcher, I’ve tried to train for velocity and work on my location in bullpen sessions.”
Janzen said it’s valuable that he can play everywhere for Aitkin.
“He’s the type of kid where he won’t complain,” he said. “He’ll play wherever we need him and especially in high school baseball when your pitchers are also positional players it can be like musical chairs in the infield and outfield. It’s important to be able to move those utility guys in those situations, but he does a fine job wherever we go.”
Paulbeck is a part of the younger Aitkin core coming up that Janzen is excited about.
“He doesn't cut any corners and just competes,” Janzen said. “Whatever he is doing he is going to work hard and not give any pushback. He’s a good kid and a good role model to the younger kids. He’ll have great conversations with different kids and he shows it on the field how to work hard.”
Paulbeck added: “We have a young core and the more we are on the field together the better we are going to get.”
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Matt Filippi, Little Falls, 3-8 with two RBIs and four runs scored. He struck out nine in five innings.
Carter DeCent, Crosby-Ironton, went 5-7 with three runs, three RBIs and five stolen bases in a doubleheader against Detroit Lakes.
Track and Field: Joe Ringhand, Crosby-Ironton, won the 1600 run in Brainerd
Eli Hall, Pequot Lakes, won the 3200 run in Brainerd.
Charles Schiessl, Pequot Lakes, won the 110 hurdles in Brainerd.
Riley Peters, Pequot Lakes, won the discus in Brainerd.
Jonathan Cheney, Pierz, won the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the high jump in Milaca.
Highlights: He reached base all eight times in a doubleheader against Park Rapids. He went 4-4 with seven RBIs, four runs scored and four walks.