Gophers Sign Six in In Early Period

Go Gophers! Gophers sign six in the early NLI period
Go Gophers!
Gophers sign six in the early NLI period
Go Gophers!

Nov. 21, 2011

University of Minnesota baseball head coach John Anderson has announced that Alec Crawford (Wilton, Iowa), Dan Motl (Burnsville, Minn.), Dalton Sawyer (Waconia, Minn.), Connor Schaefbauer (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Matt Stemper (Burnsville, Minn.) and Troy Traxler (La Crescent, Minn.) have all signed National Letters of Intent. The group will join the Gopher baseball program in the fall of 2012.  

“When we start to determine who we are going to recruit and offer scholarships to, we try to look for kids that are good fits for our program,” Anderson said. “All the young men in the class are gifted and have a strong physical ability. Looking at the overall class, all have been all-around athletes throughout their careers, and overall athleticism is something we really look for in recruiting. I feel that’s translated well for us in terms in player development and getting players to be able to play at a consistent high level in Division 1 baseball.  This year’s class is a very good class. They all wanted to come here, got recruited by other schools, but made their decisions fairly quickly and decided they wanted to come here and this is where they wanted to be.”

CrawfordCrawford, a 6-foot-2 -inch right-handed pitcher from Wilton, Iowa, is the No. 1 pitcher for Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). He produced a team-best 1.77 earned run average in 15 appearances and 12 starts. Pitching 91.2 innings, Crawford struck out 90 batters in seven complete games for a 10-2 record. This past June, Crawford was named to the National Junior College Division II World Series All-Tournament Team. During the World Series, he struck out 15 batters as the Bears defeated UConn-Avery Point, 5-0, in the tournament’s second round. Crawford tossed a complete game five-hitter in leading DMACC to the win. Crawford signing marks the first Iowa native to sign an NLI in Anderson’s tenure. With Wilton High School, Crawford played baseball, basketball, football and golf where he was all-state and all-elite in baseball, and second-team all-state in basketball. He also played for the Eau Claire Express in the Northwoods League this past summer. Crawford graduated from Wilton High School in 2010 and is the son of Ken and Dawn Crawford.

“I chose Minnesota for a number of reasons,” Crawford said. “First, I felt like I would be a great fit for the baseball program and I felt like I was going to be able to get along with the current players and coaches at Minnesota.  Second, I feel like Minnesota is a great school not only for success in baseball, but success in academics as well. I was fortunate enough to meet with the academic advisor and see what class is like and how I could adjust to class at the University of Minnesota coming from DMACC.  I feel like Minnesota fits perfectly according to my interests that I want from a University.

MotlMotl, a 6-2 outfielder from Burnsville, Minn., was recently named a captain for the 2012 Burnsville High School. As a junior with the Burnsville Blaze, Motl was a first-team all-state selection. As the starting centerfielder, Motl hit .456 with 14 runs batted in 90 at bats. Posting 41 hits and 25 stolen bases, Motl held an on-base average of .598 last season as he helped the Blaze to the Minnesota Class AAA State Championship. Lettering both his sophomore and junior year in baseball, Motl also lettered in basketball his junior campaign. A standout football player as well, Motl was Burnsville’s starting quarterback in 2011. Along with his high school accolades, Motl also played summer American Legion ball with the Burnsville Cobras. The son of Kevin and Mary Motl, Dan is coached by Mick Scholl and Greg Nesbitt. He joins current teammate Matt Stemper as they both committed to Minnesota.

“I chose Minnesota because I enjoy a large college atmosphere,” Motl said. “When you put that together with a tremendous baseball program and an excellent coaching staff, it truly is the perfect fit for me.”

SawyerHailing from Waconia, Minn., Sawyer is a 6-4 left-handed pitcher. Lettering his past three seasons with Waconia High School, Dalton was an all-conference honorable mention as a junior. Last season with the Wildcats, Sawyer had 45 strikeouts and a 4-3 record. At the plate, Sawyer also held a batting average of .358 with 13 RBI. Giving up both football and basketball, Sawyer concentrated his efforts with the Minnesota Blizzard travel team. During his time with the Blizzard last season, Sawyer went 5-1 in 25.1 innings pitched and struck out 44 and held a 1.08 ERA. Overall the Minnesota Blizzard went 28-5 on the season, including a 7-3 league record. Sawyer will graduate from Waconia High School this spring and holds a 3.6 grade point average and a National Honor Society member. He is the son of Duane and Kathy Sawyer, both of whom graduated from Minnesota and the Carlson School of Management. Sawyer is coached by Mark Grundhofer.

“I chose the University of Minnesota because every year they put a good team on the field and continually compete for the Big 10 title,” Sawyer said. “Because of the coaches, the competitiveness, class, and integrity they have instilled within the Gopher baseball program, it was a good choice for me.”

SchaefbauerSchaefbauer is a 6-0 short stop out of Sioux Falls, S.D. Playing with Sioux Falls East Legion Team, Schaefbauer hit .464 with 22 doubles, six triples, 30 stolen bases and a .522 on-base percentage last summer, striking out just eight times in 205 at-bats. In 2011, he and the Sioux Falls East team won the South Dakota State Championship in 2011. As a sophomore with Sioux Falls East, he was named the most valuable player after hitting .419 for the state runner-up team. As a junior with O’Gorman High School, he held a .471 batting average and 37 RBI and earned his second-straight, first-team all-state honors in 2011. The left-handed hitter is the second South Dakota native to sign at Minnesota under Anderson’s tutelage (Tom Doyle-Rapid City). The second-year starting quarterback for the Knights, Schaefbauer is currently leading his team into the playoff run. The son of Keith and Ann Schaefbauer, Connor will graduate this spring from O’Gorman, holds a 3.75 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. Schaefbauer’s Legion coach is Brandon Hunt.

“Growing up in Sioux Falls S.D., the University of Minnesota has always had a familiar feeling,” Schaefbauer said. “When I visited the campus and met the coaching staff and team, they made me feel like I was already a part of the team. I know the right thing for me is to be a Golden Gopher!”

StemperStemper, a 6-0 infielder, also hails from Burnsville, Minn. heading into his senior season for Burnsville High School, the starting shortstop was recently named a team captain. As a member of the Blaze team that won that state championship in 2011, Stemper was named a first-team all-state and all-conference. As a junior, Stemper held a .500 batting average with 36 RBI and 43 hits, three home runs and three triples. In his sophomore season with the Blaze, Stemper also was an all-state honoree after posting a .375 batting average and 20 RBI in 30 hits and five doubles en route to a state championship runner-up. Also playing with the Burnsville Cobras American Legion Team this past summer, he hit .420 and 44 RBI with nine home runs, 51 runs, 13 stolen bases and doubles. He is the second person in his family to be a Golden Gopher athlete as his older sister, Shannon, was on the softball team. He joins current teammate Dan Motl, also from Burnsville that has committed to Minnesota.  Matt, the son of Bob and Debra Stemper, is a member of the National Honor Society and is coached by Mick Scholl.

“Playing baseball for the Minnesota Gophers has always been my dream and goal,” Stemper said. “The official visit weekend really convinced me that this is the school and team for me. I felt right at home with the team and I’m very impressed with the coaching staff. The academic opportunities seem endless and the chance to play Big Ten baseball in front of family and friends is a dream come true.”

TraxlerTraxler, a 5-11 catcher, hails from La Crescent, Minn. Named an Under-Armor Preseason All-American, he was selected as the Winona Daily News Player of the Year as a junior when he hit .457 with 43 hits and scored 40 runs in 29 games. On the base paths, Traxler is LaCresent’s career leader, with 30 stolen bases as a freshman, 33 as a sophomore, and 25 last season.  A three-time all-conference selection, Traxler was also an all-state honoree as a junior. Since joining the varsity baseball program, Traxler has helped has helped lead La Crescent baseball to a 72-17 record over the past three years, including a Class AA state championship (2010), a state runner-up and three state appearances. An all-around athlete, Traxler will finish his high school career as a 13-time letterwinner (four in baseball, four in hockey and five in football). He was also all-conference selections in both football and hockey and played for the La Crescent Legion Team. Traxler will become the third member of his family to attend the University of Minnesota as his parents, Russ and Kristi Traxler are graduates. An honor roll student, Traxler was also on the football all-state academic team last season and will graduate this spring.

“I chose Minnesota because everyone on the baseball team seemed like a family,” Traxler said. “The guys brought everyone, including freshmen, together and I really like the coaching staff.  The coaches have a lot of confidence in me and it was good to know they have been saving a spot for me since the summer. Minnesota stood out compared to other teams because they can play all year round in the facilities they have through Bierman and the Metrodome. The facilities are not even comparable to other school’s baseball facilities and the money that is going into the program is remarkable.  I am extremely excited to be playing in a new baseball stadium on campus by the time I graduate.” 

Assistant Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Rob Fornasiere Scouting Report:

On Alec Crawford: “Alec could be a projected starting pitcher for us in years to come. Pitching in the Junior College World Series, Alec was named all-tournament. He has a very quick arm with command of three pitches.”

On Dan Motl: “Dan is a very versatile athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball with Burnsville High School. He has great speed and range as an outfielder. He has a good arm and is a stolen base threat. We hope to have him play as a centerfielder at Minnesota.”

On Dalton Sawyer: “Dalton is a left-handed pitcher who is an emerging talent. He showed well at the prestigious Area Code event in the summer of 2011 and with the for the Minnesota Blizzard travel team. A good left-handed pitcher that is very projectable with big upside.”

On Connor Schaefbauer: “Connor had some great years with the Sioux Falls East Legion teams that won the state championship. He has a strong left hand bat, with smooth actions and great speed. A multiple-sport athlete, he is projected to play as a middle infielder.”

On Matt Stemper: “Matt is a strong hitter that possesses a strong bat, good arm and versatility. Playing for state champions Burnsville High School, he is projected to play at third base or outfield here at Minnesota. He continues family tradition as his sister Shannon played softball for the Gophers.”

On Troy Traxler: Another versatile athlete in this class, Troy is a three-sport athlete from La Crescent, Minn. Like in high school and in Legion action, he is projected to play as a catcher. He has great speed, a strong arm and a very good bat.”

Name Pos. B/T Ht Wt Hometown/Previous School
Alec Crawford P R/R 6-2 200 Wilton, Iowa/Des Moines Area CC
Dan Motl OF R/R 6-2 175 Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville HS
Dalton Sawyer P L/L 6-4 190

Waconia, Minn./Waconia HS

Connor Schaefbauer    SS L/R 6-0 175 Sioux Falls, S.D./O'Gorman HS
Matt Stemper IF R/R 6-0 180 Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville HS
Troy Traxler C R/R 5-11 180 La Crescent, Minn./La Crescent HS