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From small town to big stage, NDSU's Calen Schwabe making most of senior season

Bison outfielder from Thompson, N.D., leading the team in hitting heading into first home series

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North Dakota State senior Calen Schwabe, from Thompson, North Dakota, said playing Division I baseball in his home state is a dream come true.
NDSU Athletics photo
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FARGO — The suggestion was made to Calen Schwabe that his North Dakota State baseball team should get on a bus early Friday afternoon and drive around Fargo for a while before stopping at Newman Outdoor Field. The Bison, after all, were the last Division I program in the country to play a home game.

“That would definitely feel a little more natural with us,” Schwabe said.

The home opener was last week, a nonconference game against Mayville State. The first home series that starts Friday against Northern Colorado carries a little more gusto. NDSU has traveled all over the United States, yet remains in first place in the Summit League with two weeks to go.

Schwabe has been a big reason why.

How does a team that lost some big pieces from last year’s Summit tournament title team that reached the NCAA tournament continue its success? Players like Schwabe have upped their game.

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His batting average is about 100 points higher than his previous two years at NDSU combined. The center fielder from Thompson, N.D., who in high school never pictured himself as a Division I player, is making the most of his senior season.

“It was always a dream come true when I came here, playing Division I baseball in my home state is pretty cool and it’s not far from home,” Schwabe said. “I knew I wanted to play baseball and whatever school reached out to me would have made a good fit … it just happened to be NDSU.”

The Bison reached out to Schwabe after two years of junior college ball at Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa. The link was former DMACC head coach David Pearson, who is also a former Bison assistant.

Schwabe hit .393 in his last year at DMACC. That slipped to .220 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season at NDSU.

He started all 61 games last year — which tied a single-season record for most games played — hitting .246. That has jumped to a team-leading .336 so far in NDSU’s 25-16 season.

Schwabe hasn’t changed his mechanics. His swing is the same. The approach, however, has been different.

“For me, he’s kind of put it all together,” said NDSU head coach Tyler Oakes, giving credit to Brandon Hunt, the team’s hitting coach. “He’s not pressing as much and letting the game come to him and not trying to do too much. His approach has been really good and he’s not swinging at bad pitches out of the zone.”

He’s doing it against pitchers who routinely throw 90 miles per hour or higher. At Thompson, where he hit .452 his senior year, that wasn’t nearly the case.

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Yet, he’s yet another example of an in-state player who has made it to the highest level.

“Looking at it from a nationwide standpoint, we don’t see very good arms and we don’t play in a very good conference,” Schwabe said of high school ball. “So I decided I wanted to go somewhere where I can get on the field in pretty decent weather, try to be the best I can be and see what happens. At DMACC, I realized the first week I showed up there that there were 30, 40 guys that were all pretty good at baseball and I hadn’t seen that before. At that moment, I realized I have to work hard and put in my best effort every day.”

He’s not the only Schwabe from Thompson on the team. His brother Cadyn is a starting outfielder as a sophomore after spending one year at DMACC. Both have remarkably similar statistics.

Calen has 36 hits, two doubles and one triple. Cadyn has 39 hits, two doubles, and one triple. It’s the first time they’ve played together in a few years.

“Obviously him and his brother having that experience together is something they’ll never forget and will have memories of a lifetime,” Oakes said. “It’s been fun to watch them bond on and off the field. It’s what we want at NDSU; the kids that are Division I athletes who want to play baseball, we want them to stay home and represent NDSU and the state of North Dakota.”

The four-game series carries a 6:30 p.m. start Friday, a 2 p.m. first pitch Saturday and 1 p.m. start on Sunday. There’s not a lot of wiggle room in the race for the No. 1 seed for the Summit tournament.

NDSU is 12-4. Oral Roberts is percentage points behind at 13-5. Omaha is in sight at 11-7.

“Having a Summit team come here will be fun and the guys are excited to finally be outside for a weekend in front of our home crowd,” Calen said. “We’ll try to keep this good thing going and we have to try and finish our conference season strong.”

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CALEN SCHWABE 2022042022 BSB UN _2797.JPG
North Dakota State senior Calen Schwabe leads the team in hitting heading into its first home series of the season against Northern Colorado.
NDSU Athletics photo
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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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