Baseball: Alexandria’s Matthew Carlsen breaks records at Bethel – Alexandria Echo Press
ALEXANDRIA – There’s a common saying in baseball that the best approach to home plate is to simply see the ball and hit it. The implication being that overthinking can get a batter in trouble.
There’s some truth to that for some, and to some extent, Alexandria native Matthew Carlsen followed that up to a record-breaking second season at Bethel University in St. Paul last spring.
“Always in my mentality of playing baseball, I felt coming up to home plate that I expect to outdo the pitcher even if they’re really good,” Carlsen said. “I have to trust my swing and have good pitch selection. Then just hit the ball when it arrives. I’m technical with my mechanics, but I’m not technical with ball positioning or throwing. I don’t try to capture the different rotations of the ball. I just sit down and let him come to me and hit him. Try to keep it simple.
But keeping things simple isn’t necessarily in Carlsen’s nature. He is certainly a critical thinker in many aspects of his life.
Carlsen, a 2020 graduate of Alexandria Area High School who played football, hockey, and baseball, majored in mechanical engineering at Bethel with a 4.0 GPA. In high school, he created a machine that taped hockey sticks, a project that combined his passion for engineering, physics, and sports.
Carlsen’s play on the baseball field this season and his work in the classroom earned him the Elite 22 award on May 24. It is an honor bestowed by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that recognizes a student-athlete who has peaked in their sport while also achieving the highest academic level among their peers.
“It’s pretty impactful,” Carlsen said. “I know all the time I spend studying. Going to eat after training and immediately going to the library almost every day. It’s nice to see the hard work paying off. I never really heard of the award, honestly, until I won it.
Carlsen entered the 2022 baseball season after a strong 2021 campaign for Bethel where he hit .416 with a .485 on-base percentage. He started 19 of the 30 games played by the Royals.
Carlsen was still primarily a contact hitter at this time. Twenty-nine of his 37 hits that year were singles, and he finished with 11 RBI and a .517 hitting percentage.
Where Carlsen saw his biggest leap as a sophomore came in some of his power numbers. He set Bethel single-season records for runs scored (56), hits scored (73), RBIs (57), and total bases (119).
His slugging percentage, the metric frequently used to measure a batter’s skill at extra hits, rose to .655.
After not hitting a homer as a freshman, Carlsen hit 8 in 2022. He added 12 doubles, two triples, 19 walks and 14 pitches to finish with an on-base percentage of 0.505.
“One thing that surprised me was hitting so many homers,” Carlsen said. “If you looked at me in high school, I never really hit home runs or had that much power. I changed my swing a bit to stand taller and try to stay back more and pass by the hips.
Carlsen, who plays defensively at center field, weighs around 180 pounds. That’s about 10 pounds since high school. The jump in some of that extra power is mostly due to a different approach to the plate.
“A lot of it isn’t hitting the ball in front like I did,” Carlsen said. “I also started swinging harder. In batter counts, I try to drive the ball. Back in high school, I was really a feel hitter. I would see the ball and try to drive the ball. placing the bat with my hands and swinging a lot with my forearms and hands. My body has matured a bit.
As Carlsen’s output increased, so did his team’s.
Bethel went 24-17 in 2021 with a 14-11 record in the MIAC. The Royals were 35-11 last spring, finishing first in the conference with a 16-4 record.
Bethel won the MIAC playoffs with a win over Concordia College and two wins over Gustavus Adolphus. In the NCAA Division III Championships, the Royals defeated the College of Wooster of Wooster, Ohio and then fifth-place Webster University of Missouri in a 7-5 game on May 22. Carlsen was 2 for 5 with a brace, two RBIs and a run scored in that game.
“It’s about emphasizing fun, not trying to play for stats because that adds a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure.”
Matthew Carlsen on expectations for his junior season
Bethel’s run ended in a rematch with the College of Wooster on May 23 when Wooster won the regional championship with 11-8 and 11-6 wins.
” It’s awesome. For just about every game there was maybe someone (hitting) under .300 in our lineup,” Carlsen said. “You can’t get RBIs and a lot of stats without getting a lot of at-bats per game and being successful as a team. It was really fun to be successful with a lot of guys who are really good and to see a team that was able to play to their potential do great things.
Bethel will return a good core of that team for the 2023 season, and Carlsen will likely be a big part of that again.
He will spend this summer playing town ball for the St. Michael Saints while he remains in the Twin Cities to complete an engineering internship through Bone Foam – a Corcoran company that produces foam patient positioners that help keep patients in place for surgeons during surgeries. .
Exactly what Carlsen wants to do with a mechanical engineering degree in the job market is starting to become clear.
“I want to work more in electro-mechanical robotic type stuff,” Carlsen said. “Or consumer-based robotics, so things that actually affect people, not just robot manufacturing.”
There is a lot of pressure that can come outside of competition in the life of a college athlete. Carlsen doesn’t want that to be the case for him on the diamond.
After consecutive seasons hitting over .400, he knows there will be expectations for another big season as a junior. Its purpose is to remember what has led to so much success. In a way, keep it simple.
“I’m trying to get over that pressure and keep trusting my swing and having fun,” Carlsen said. “It’s about emphasizing fun, not trying to play for stats because that adds a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure.”