It doesn’t take a math major to tell you that 30 home runs in any baseball season, at any level, is a lot.
But when a player reaches that magic number in only 42 games (with several more yet to play), after hitting 20 home runs combined in the previous three seasons, people tend to take notice.
And, by the way: The player who has accomplished that feat — Minnesota Duluth 6-5, 230-pound senior first baseman Alex Wojciechowski — does happen to be a math major. Wojciechowski, in explaining his choice of college focus, said he has “always been good with numbers.” But even he never imagined his home run total could add up so quickly.
“It’s been hard to explain,” said Wojciechowski, a Coon Rapids native. “I’ve had good seasons in the past, but this is the first time I’ve been locked in long-term. I think it’s my mind-set and preparation. I haven’t ever worked harder before a season and during a season than I have this year.”
Indeed, Wojciechowski burst onto the college scene by hitting .425 as a freshman to win not only honors as the Northern Sun’s top freshman but also as the Division II conference’s MVP. As a junior last season, he cracked 12 home runs and had an eye-popping OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.231.
This year, though, he’s been on another level entirely. Heading into a doubleheader showdown at St. Cloud State on Wednesday — the Huskies (34-6) are ranked No. 1 in Division II’s Central Region while Minnesota Duluth (33-9) is ranked No. 3 — Wojciechowski is hitting .488 with 30 homers, 87 RBI and an OPS of 1.663. The Division II record, according to the NCAA’s record book, is 36 home runs, set by Brian Davis of West Georgia in 1998.
Not bad for a player who first caught UMD coach Bob Rients’ eye as a high school pitcher. Gradually, Rients came to view Wojciechowski as a player who could get starts on the mound and in the field. An arm injury his freshman year pushed Wojciechowski into full-time hitting duties.
“I can’t take all the credit that I saw this happening,” Rients said with a laugh.
Rients was asked if he’s ever seen a season like this one. “No, and I probably never will again,” he said. Then again, Wojciechowski’s younger brother, Tyler — 6-3 and 225 pounds already, and a lefthanded hitter as opposed to righthanded Alex — is a freshman on this year’s team and is hitting .325.
Rients and Wojciechowski both gave credit to the rest of the Bulldogs lineup for being strong top to bottom. Wojciechowski has been intentionally walked only eight times this year as a result — despite separate streaks of five and seven consecutive games with at least one home run and a three-homer game against Minnesota State Mankato. Wojciechowski also gives a nod to first-year assistant coach Trevor Burmeister, who helped him with his approach during the preseason.
“One thing he was preaching just clicked,” Wojciechowski said. “He called it ‘dancing with the pitcher,’ and it was something I hadn’t done before. It’s about finding the rhythm with each pitcher, and it allows me to be on time with the fastball.”
If Wojciechowski keeps this up, he could be dancing with the stars, too. Several MLB teams, including the Twins, have at least contacted him in advance of next month’s draft. The Twins have had representatives at a few of his games, Wojciechowski said.
“I hope someone gives him an opportunity,” Rients said. “He has a lot to offer. He has a short, compact swing. He’s competitive and coachable. He’s really humble and works hard at the little things. He’s a great representative of the kind of student-athlete we want to have.”
Wojciechowski, for his part, said he is “trying to take each game as a new opportunity” while keeping his focus on the field and on this week’s math finals.
So far, the numbers in both cases have worked out in his favor.