Modest McCallum belting the baseball

baseball

Ashley Goetz

baseball

BY austin cumblad [email protected] Everyone is doing it âÄî opponents, the press, weekly awards committees âÄî and rightly so. A week of 20 RBIs, six home runs and a .636 batting average saw to that. But junior second baseman Derek McCallum doesnâÄôt come across as a guy that wants everyone talking about him. Ask about his otherworldly play at the plate, and youâÄôll get back: âÄúI donâÄôt know. Things are just clicking right now I guess.âÄù In the next breath heâÄôs passing credit to the hitters around him in the order for helping him by getting on base. For a guy putting up such remarkable individual numbers âÄî Big Ten-leading marks like a .404 batting average and 52 RBIs âÄî itâÄôs difficult to imagine a more team-oriented player. Perhaps if McCallum just talks about his teammates, his teammates will talk about him. Redshirt freshman AJ Pettersen: âÄúThat was one of the most amazing weeks IâÄôve ever seen anybody have.âÄù Sophomore Michael Kvasnicka: âÄúIt is like nothing IâÄôve ever seen before, and thatâÄôs not an exaggeration. IâÄôm on deck every time he hits and I cheer for him every time but itâÄôs getting ridiculous. ItâÄôs like you canâÄôt even believe how many balls heâÄôs striking so hard.âÄù True freshman Justin Gominsky echoed Kvasnicka: âÄúIâÄôve never seen anything like it before. It seemed like every time he was going up it was going to be a home run âÄî and it pretty much was.âÄù Head coach John AndersonâÄôs language was the least lofty, but paid McCallum perhaps the biggest compliment of all. âÄúIâÄôm not surprised by anything Derek does right now based on where I think heâÄôs at as a player.âÄù Not surprised by six home runs and 20 RBIs in five games? ThatâÄôs saying something. The Big Ten and Collegiate Baseball magazine said something too, respectively naming McCallum the Big Ten player of the week and one of the National Players of the Week. And North Dakota State, which Minnesota plays in Fargo at 4 p.m. today, is likely hatching a strategy to slow McCallum right now, one that could feasibly involve nothing but intentional walks. Indeed, until he slows down, the attention will keep coming. When it originates from the media, McCallum will probably keep deflecting it. When it originates from the oppositionâÄôs bullpen, he probably wonâÄôt mind. While they focus on him, the rest of the team can continue producing at a rate that would receive more attention if it werenâÄôt for McCallumâÄôs exploits. Just look at what Pettersen, Kvasnicka and Gominsky âÄî who were so eager to praise McCallumâÄôs incredible week âÄî did over the same five-game stretch. Pettersen hit his first two home runs of the season, scored 11 runs and drove in five while batting an even .500 (11-for-22). Kvasnicka sent two over the fence and knocked in five as well, and Gominsky went 10-for-21 and scored four runs from the seventh spot in the order. Typically, numbers like those would stand out immediately, but compared to McCallumâÄôs, theyâÄôre relegated to next best. As much as they should be, no one is talking about PettersenâÄôs .402 season average. But thatâÄôs just fine with him. âÄúIt helps me a lot being sandwiched in between Matty [senior Matt Nohelty, whoâÄôs batting .358] and Derek because I get a lot of pitches to hit,âÄù Pettersen said. âÄúThereâÄôs no way IâÄôd be as successful as I have been without those guys around me. IâÄôm very thankful to have them in the lineup, have them on base all the time and get more opportunities to hit because of them.âÄù