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Dakota Belter signs to pitch for Minnesota-Mankato

Somerset native Dakota Belter (center) was one of three Century College baseball players who signed NCAA Letters of Intent during a signing event at Century College last week. Pitcher Colton Vien (left) will attend Augustana College and pitcher Eldon Evans (right) will attend South Dakota State University.

There are few things in life that Dakota Belter likes more than playing baseball.

Now, he’ll have two more years to enjoy playing baseball at the collegiate level.

Belter was one of three Century College players to sign NCAA National Letters of Intent last week. Belter signed with one of the top NCAA Division 2 baseball programs in the country, the University of Minnesota-Mankato.

Belter, a Somerset native, is coming off a season where he led national junior colleges with 12 saves as the closer for the Century baseball team.

Pitching was not in Belter’s plans when he began his college baseball career. He started out as an infielder, but was injured in his freshman year at UW-Oshkosh and sat out the season.

Last year, he and Somerset High School teammate Jared Dettmann decided to attend Century College in White Bear Lake. It turned out to be a hugely successful move for both. Dettmann was the ace of the Century pitching staff and was drafted in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He signed with the Braves and had a prosperous first season in pro ball.

Belter was still hoping to catch on as an infielder. During a fall scrimmage, Century coach Dwight Kotila needed someone to pitch a couple mop-up innings. He asked for volunteers and Belter stepped up. The Century coaches weren’t sure, asking Dettmann if Belter had ever really pitched before. When Dettmann assured them that Belter had pitched in high school, they gave him a chance.

Belter retired the three batters he faced with no trouble. So the coaches sent him out for another inning. Again, the batters went down 1-2-3 with no issues.

“He’s really one of those unique stories,” Kotila said.

The coaches quickly found that Belter was an ideal fit for the high-pressure role of being a closer.

“He’s showed some moxie. He’s handled tough situations really well,” Kotila said.

Belter said the pressure of closing games doesn’t really bother him. He said he’s a ground ball pitcher, so his role is to get opposing hitters to hit the ball on the ground and let his defense take care of the rest.

Much of the credit for Belter’s success, he said, goes to Century pitching coach Randy Briesacher.

“He helped me figure out how to actually pitch,” Belter said, saying Briesacher showed him proper pitching mechanics and how to grip the ball correctly to be effective with different pitches.

With the improved mechanics, Belter has been able to hit as high as 88 miles per hour on the radar gun.

Kotila said Belter’s success on the mound is just part of his value to the team. Belter’s fun-loving, high-energy style keeps the team’s mind in the game.

“He likes to chatter. That’s one thing about his personality, it’s definitely contagious,” Kotila said. “He’s got a great personality. Everybody on the team loves him.”

Kotila said Belter had a number of colleges interested in him, including several Division 1 programs. He said one of the factors that helped Mankato is its proximity to Somerset. Belter’s family attends most of his games and his attending Mankato will continue to make that possible.

Belter is one of five players signed by Mankato in the early signing period. Another is Eau Claire Memorial pitcher Dalton Roach. Former Eau Claire pitcher Tyler Sparger pitched with the Mavericks last spring, before signing with the Seattle Mariners.

Mankato won the 2013 NCAA DII Central Regional tournament en route to a second-place finish at the NCAA national tournament. The 42-9 season was the best in Mavericks’ history.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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