Warriors Athlete of Week: Benson hitting bombs for Brainerd
Senior Jonathan Benson is enjoying his leadership role as a senior, a catcher of an up-and-coming pitching staff and a person who does damage with a bat.
BRAINERD -- Jonathan Benson is the epitome of a student-athlete.
Prior to Brainerd’s 7-5 Game One victory over the Alexandria Cardinals May 4, Benson was taking his Advanced Placement Statistics test. The long, grueling test finished at 3:30 p.m, giving the senior catcher for the Brainerd Warriors just a half hour to get to the ball field, warm up and get ready to play.
The Warriors had Benson in the designated hitter slot and on his first at-bat he singled. Later in the game, he smoked a home run.
“Right now, I’m most proud of my two bombs this year,” Benson said. “My sophomore and junior year I was only able to hit one each year. I’ve been seeing the ball a little bit better to start and I’ve been able to hit a few earlier ones. Now I’m just trying to keep my approach of hitting it the other way.”
In 18 games, Benson is hitting .273 with a .420 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage. Of his 15 hits, six have gone for doubles and two for home runs. He’s second on the team with 10 RBIs and has seven runs scored.
We think he’s going to do really good things at the next level.
“I just wanted to help bring up the younger kids and get off to a good start and hopefully set ourselves up for success the remaining of the year,” Benson said. “The game has slowed down a lot. I’ve been able to focus on the little things instead of the big-time adjustments I had to make when I was younger. I’ve been able to see the ball as I’ve grown and seen better pitching. It’s slowed down a whole lot since those first few games as a sophomore. The game was fast earlier in my career, but now it’s just a nice easy pace to play at.”
Benson has walked five times and has been hit by a pitch nine times.
“The first thing that I would say is his ability to understand the strike zone and if a ball is coming at him he doesn’t get out of the way,” Brainerd head coach Trent Grams said.”He knows he is taking one for the team sorta speak, but it helps. Getting to first base is the goal.”
Benson opened the month of May on a terror as he went 8-of-11 across four games. Of those eight hits, three went for doubles and one was a home run. He added five RBIs.
Earlier in the year, Benson committed his talents to the University of Sioux Falls. He said it was a huge pressure lifted off of his shoulders when he finally made his decision.
“I committed in January,” Benson said. “I was in between two schools and just talking with my family and praying about it, Sioux Falls was the place I landed on. I loved the atmosphere there and the coaching staff. I’ll be catching and playing first and maybe designated hitting. Whatever I have to do to get into the lineup as quickly as possible is my goal.”
On Monday, May 22, Benson collected Brainerd’s lone RBI in an 8-3 loss to Buffalo.
In Brainerd’s 8-5 Game Two victory over St. Cloud May 18, Benson scored a run and in the Warriors’ 3-2 Game One loss, he finished 1-2 with a double and two RBIs.
Against Sauk Rapids last week, Benson was 2-4 with a double and one RBI.
“He is a smart baseball player and I do believe that starts in the classroom,” Grams said. “Sometimes what happens is that some of your players are excellent students in the classroom and that carries over to the field as well. Being a catcher and just seeing the whole field and understanding where everyone needs to go and also calling the game and understanding what hitters are doing is a testament to how smart his brain is. Both in the building and on the baseball field.
“He’ll be very good at the next level. He’ll just keep getting stronger and smarter. I just think he’s a kid, being a catcher and understanding the entire game benefits him and we think he’s going to do really good things at the next level.”
Benson, along with battery mat Isaac Hanson, was selected to play for the Minnesota Baseball Coaches Association North All-Star team.
It’s been a steady but assured growth process with Benson said Grams. The senior is now calling pitches for his pitching staff this season and Grams said he understands his pitchers and the game well.
“This year, coach Grams has given me the trust to call my own games,” Benson said. “Just being able to control the pitching staff is a pride I take on myself. I think I do a good job of calming the guys down when they get frustrated. When guys have rough innings I can go and talk to them and calm them down and get them right back on track for another good inning.
“This pitching staff has a lot of grit. We’re able to overcome the tough early innings and just really settle in and attack hitters the way we want to attack them. Like getting strike one and controlling the at-bats instead of having the batters control us.”
The Warriors dropped to 7-11 Monday, but Benson feels the team is on the cusp of breaking out and doing damage in the postseason.
“We feel like we’re right there,” Benson said. “We’re in every game we’ve played so far. We haven’t really gotten beat bad and haven’t beaten anybody bad. We’re playing around that .500 ball. I think we just need to keep our heads high and put together a few good games together and maybe string a few wins together. Hopefully, we’ll get some stuff rolling before sections roll around.”
If things don’t get rolling as Benson hopes, he will still have left a lasting impression on the program said Grams.
“One thing that not a lot of people see is that he is the first one to carry the equipment and he’s the last one to leave the field pretty much every single day,” Grams said. “We have a lot of kids who stay late and try to put in the work, but Jon historically is that kid who is always the last one there willing to do all the little things that some of the juniors and sophomores see that make him a true leader. Those are the things we hope everyone else sees and understands about him.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Career highlight: Finishing my AP Stats test right before the start of Brainerd’s game against Alexandria and hitting a home run.
Other sports: Basketball
Grade-point average: 3.5
Favorite class: AP Stats
Favorite food: Cheeseburger
Favorite movie: “42”
Favorite musician: Drake
Favorite restaurant: Portillo’s
Future plans: Attend and play baseball at University of Sioux Falls and study secondary education
Parents: Steve and Liz Benson
Other notable performances
Isaac Hanson, baseball, finished 2-5 including a three-run walk-off home run against Sauk Rapids.
Keaton Lingenfelter, baseball, earned his first varsity win by pitching five innings of relief with two strikeouts against Sauk Rapids. He also finished with two hits, a double and two RBIs.
Tanner Karsnia, boys’ lacrosse, scored two goals against Grand Rapids and then scored four against Monticello.
Mya Tautges, softball, struck out 10 in a three-hit complete-game victory over Moorhead.
Izzy Olson, girls’ golf, shot a 6-over 78 to win The Classic Invite at Madden’s. She then won a CLC meet at Blackberry Ridge with a 76.
Brandon Stark, boys’ track and field, won the 200- and 400-meter dashes in the Sauk Rapids Triangular.
Dylan Gross, boys’ track and field, won the shot put and finished second in the discus at the Sauk Rapids Triangular.
Brenna Deason, girls’ track and field, won the pole vault at the Sauk Rapids Triangular and then won the 100-meter dash at the Class 3A State True Team meet.
Connor Knight, boys’ lacrosse, finished with four goals against Big Lake.
Wyatt Gabrielson, baseball, finished 2-3 with a double, home run and four RBIs against St. Cloud.
Brody Lund, baseball, finished 3-3 with two runs and two RBIs against St. Cloud.