JAMESTOWN — For the first time in program history, the University of Jamestown’s baseball team has gotten the two best players in North Dakota.
The program got the signatures of Troy Berg, the 2021-22 North Dakota Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, and Trapper Skalsky, the 2022 Class B senior baseball athlete of the year.
“I think that shows a lot for Jamestown’s program about how high quality it is and how good of a program they run there that two players of that caliber want to commit and come play there,” Skalsky said.
Skalsky and Berg are not the only players coming into the program with recognition as former Minot Magicians pitcher and outfielder Chase Burke, who was named the 2021 Class B senior baseball athlete of the year, is transferring to the Jimmies from Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona.
“I just wanted to go because of the tradition and they’re always a good program and I really like how coach (Tom) Hager runs it,” Burke said. “I think we could have a chance at winning a national championship.”
Hager, the Jimmies coach, said his recruiting strategy starts in North Dakota and then moves outward.
“Our recruiting has always started with working from the area and then expanding to other states,” Hager said. “We feel so lucky that we are able to get a couple of the best players from the state of North Dakota in Troy Berg and Chase Burke.”
Berg is the first future Jimmie to win the North Dakota Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year since Andy Young in the 2011-12 season.
“Honestly, I think it’s another award,” Berg said. “It’s not really something you can focus on. Honestly, you gotta move past it and keep playing the game.”
Skalsky said Hager’s recruiting pitch to get him to commit to the team was an easy one.
“He’s an intense guy, he’s got a good program, knows what he’s doing,” Skalsky said. “It was: ‘Come, when you get here we’re going to get to work and we’re going to win.‘”
Burke said he is excited to get to school and work with the other players with big awards next to their names in the recruiting class.
“It’s good to have good competition all around,” Burke said. “It’s better to have really good players coming in. The better the players, the more help we have to win more games. It’s huge to do that.”
Berg has spent the summer playing for the Dickinson Roughriders American Legion team, helping the team make the state tournament as the four seed with a 21-16 record. Berg has compiled a .415 average with three home runs, 21 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
“I think one of the things that Troy possesses is the ability to play multiple positions, very athletic and he really hits it,” Hager said. “When he swings it, he’s got some pop in his bat and he can really run the bases. There are a lot of tools that he brings to the table that makes you think that he can have a successful career.”
Berg has also pitched 31.1 innings with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He also helped his team defensively with 104 catches, 53 assists and 44 putouts.
Berg said the Midgets’ third-place finish has fueled him and his Roughrider teammates to try to go deep into the state tournament.
Burke is the only one of the three recruits that is not playing for a legion team this summer as he is playing for the Canyon County Spuds summer collegiate baseball team. In 27 games with the Spuds, Burke is hitting .216 with 11 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.
“It shows you a lot about yourself. It shows you how to come back from being down and struggling and when you bring yourself back up, it teaches you how to do that,” Burke said, referring to playing for the Spuds. “You make adjustments at the plate, you make adjustments in the field. It teaches you a lot about baseball, you meet other cool guys. It gets you prepared for college baseball this fall.”
Hager said he believes the accolades of the current recruiting class will help bring in other big-time recruits in the future.
“Anytime that you can market the fact that you have quality players from North Dakota, you’d like to think that’s gonna help you get other players because good players wanna play with good players,” Hager said. “So, I think it can only help us in the future.”