The Golden Eagles inked Trace Brayton, Aaron Cantu, Conner Fonger, Jake Hjelle, Jake Osowski and Parker Stroh.

    The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball team announced the signing of six student-athletes to National Letters of Intent. The Golden Eagles inked Trace Brayton (LHP/OF, 6-1 185, Prentice, Wis./Prentice H.S.), Aaron Cantu (RHP, Raisin Valley, Calif./Caruthers H.S.), Conner Fonger (OF, 5-9 172, Superior, Wis./Superior H.S.), Jake Hjelle (3B/OF, East Grand Forks, Minn./East Grand Forks H.S.), Jake Osowski (RHP, 5-10 175, East Grand Forks, Minn./East Grand Forks H.S.), and Parker Stroh (C, 6-0 175, Grand Forks, N.D./Grand Forks Central H.S.) for the 2019-20 signing class.

    “We are more than ecstatic with this initial signing class,” said Head Coach Steve Gust. “These six high school signees were exactly what we were looking for from both a talent and character trait standpoint. We are still looking to sign a few more key guys, possibly junior college recruits, but this class gives us a good nucleus of well-rounded student-athletes for the next four years.”

Trace Brayton (LHP/OF, 6-1 185, Prentice, Wis./Prentice H.S.)    

    Brayton was a first team all-conference selection for baseball, football, and basketball for Prentice High School. He was 1-2 last season with a 2.68 ERA with 54 strikeouts to just 20 walks. In addition, Brayton hit .362 with five doubles, two triples, and three RBIs.

    He is the son of Jeremy and Trisha Brayton. Brayton plans to major in golf and turf management. He was born July 2, 2000. His father Jeremy Brayton played football at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His brother Taylor Brayton plays baseball at Iowa Central Community College. He has earned an Academic Letter, along with bronze, silver, and gold academic medals.

    “Trace really impressed us on his campus visit,” Gust said. “We liked his passion and desire for the game and this institution. He is very raw and has some undeveloped skills especially as a pitcher. We believe he can develop into something really special.”

Aaron Cantu (RHP, Raisin Valley, Calif./Caruthers H.S.)

    Cantu was selected as the MVP for Caruthers High School for baseball. He was also selected First Team All-League Offensive Player of the Year. Cantu tossed 13.1 innings with a 0.00 ERA at the Fowler Easter Classic last year. He also competed for the Fresno A’s.

    He has a 4.1 GPA coming into Minnesota Crookston. He served as junior class president and band president for Caruthers High School.

    “Aaron has some fantastic stuff and knows how to pitch,” Gust said. “He has excelled for a very good development program in the Fresno A’s. More importantly, he has done great things in the classroom. We expect him to compete for a spot as a freshman and hope he can develop into a top NSIC pitcher.”

Conner Fonger (OF, 5-9 172, Superior, Wis./Superior H.S.)

    Fonger helped lead Superior High School to their second-straight Lake Superior Conference championship in 2018. He also played football for Superior High School. Fonger played American Legion baseball for the Superior Reds. He has been a four-year varsity starter for Superior High School.

    He is the son of Duane and Merry Fonger. Fonger was born Sept. 28, 2000. He plans to major in business and marketing at Minnesota Crookston. His cousin Deric Manrique played baseball at the University of Northern Iowa.

    “Conner brings speed and athleticism to our program,” Gust said. “He’s a top of the order type of player who can handle the bat and play defense. He has the tools and just needs to mature and develop as a ball player. With time, we expect Connor to be a well-rounded baseball player.”

Jake Hjelle (3B/OF, 6-3 215, East Grand Forks, Minn./East Grand Forks H.S.)

    Hjelle follows in the footsteps of his brother Reed Hjelle as he joins the Minnesota Crookston baseball program. He is a three- year letter winner for the East Grand Forks High School baseball team. He was named All-Section 8AA for 2017 and 2018. As a junior, he hit .444 in high school and .411 for his American Legion team. As a sophomore, Hjelle posted a .439 batting average for East Grand Forks High School, along with a .489 batting average in American Legion baseball. He was named the East Grand Forks High School MVP as a sophomore. In 2017, he was the American Legion Post 157 Team Offensive MVP.

    Hjelle is the son of Garret and Kelly Hjelle. He was born Jan. 9, 2001. Hjelle is undecided on his major. His father Garret Hjelle played football at University of Minnesota Duluth. His mother played softball at Itasca Community College. His brother Reed has been an All-NSIC First Team selection and NSIC Player of the Year at Minnesota Crookston.

    “We’ve targeted Jake since he was in eighth grade,” Gust said. “He comes from a great family and has the values and character traits we are looking for in a student-athlete. He still needs time to develop his overall game, but he has the tools to be a great hitter and all-around player. We are excited to get him on campus and start working with him.”

Jake Osowski (RHP, 5-10 175, East Grand Forks, Minn./East Grand Forks H.S.)

    Osowski joins a long pipeline of East Grand Forks players to come to Minnesota Crookston. He joins his high school teammate Jake Hjelle at Minnesota Crookston.

    He is the son of Robert and Melodie Osowski. Osowski wants to be an athletic trainer. He was born April 24, 2001.

    “I’ve been watching Jake for the last couple of years and he has impressed me with his demeanor on the mound and his ability to flat-out pitch,” Gust said. “His pitching isn’t flashy but he knows how to get outs. He has a lot to learn and needs to get bigger, stronger and more explosive, but we feel he has the ability to be a solid pitcher at this level.”

Parker Stroh (C, 6-0 175, Grand Forks, N.D./Grand Forks Central H.S.)

    Stroh was an All-Eastern Dakota Conference pick as a junior. He has been a four-year starter for Grand Forks Central High School. He has played American Legion for Grand Forks Post 6. He has played catcher and third base for Grand Forks Central High School.

    He is the son of Jim and Nicci Stroh. Stroh plans to major in criminal justice. He was born July 5, 2000. His cousin Taylor Steen is the current Minnesota Crookston baseball assistant coach, who played at Indiana State University and Emporia State University. His cousin Mitch Stroh played baseball at Augustana. His uncle Scott Steen was taken in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1985.

    We are happy Parker made the decision to sign with us after having other options,” Gust said. “He has a passion for catching and the game itself. We feel he is very projectable at the catcher position. We like the way he has improved throughout his high school career and believe he will continue to get better.”