PINE RIVER -- Nick Keefe was on the track and field team as a junior, but hasn't lost any speed in switching to baseball.
A week after the track season started, Keefe tore the a knee ligament. He was told he didn't need surgery, but couldn't run a lot so he decided to try baseball.
"I used to play baseball and went to a couple practices and remembered how much fun it was and just stayed with that," said Keefe.
The senior from Pine River-Backus was 3-for-3 with a double, triple and home run in a 10-8 win over Pillager May 8.
"I was picking up the ball really well," Keefe said. "They threw me a curve one time and I hit that. One of them was just a hit and run and I was just protecting the plate anyway. I just waited on it and pulled it."
Keefe's performance helped the Tigers pick up their first win of the season.
"We knew our fielding would hold up," said Tigers coach Mike Thyen. "But our hitting had really struggled. When we went into Pillager we figured we had a pretty good shot of winning and everyone came out to play that day.
"I was hoping for another at bat for him so he could hit for the cycle."
Although it hasn't been the most successful spring for Keefe, who's accustomed to winning, he's happy with his decision to play baseball.
"It's not as bad as I thought it would be because I still have fun with it," said Keefe. "If you have fun with it and lose, it's not that bad. If you win and have fun, it's just a bonus."
Keefe plays shortstop and is the No. 3 pitcher in the Tigers' rotation.
"He throws strikes," Thyen said. "He's got a good little curveball. He's not overpowering or anything, but he can give you five or six solid innings.
"I knew coming in that he played quarterback for the football team so I actually expected him to be able to pitch."
Keefe, who helped the football team to a 27-4 record in his three-year varsity career and helped the basketball team advance to the school's first state appearance, hits leadoff in the Tigers' order.
"It's not too bad," said Keefe. "I like it because you're first at bat and the pitcher might be a little nervous."
When Keefe gets on base he's also a threat to steal. "As soon as he gets on we're thinking about sending him right away," Thyen said.
Keefe is going to Concordia College next fall to play football. Now, he's thinking about baseball as well.
"He's kind of a pleasant surprise for us," said Thyen. "I told him I wish he could be on the team for a few more years."
Other notable performances:
Golf -- Brian Hills was medalist at a Great River Conference meet at Izaty's.
Baseball -- John Doughty and Pat Johnson of Pequot Lakes were 3-for-4 with two RBI vs. Verndale.
Crosby-Ironton's Aaron Johnson was 2-for-3 with two RBI and picked up a complete-game win with four strikeouts and no walks.
Mike Schwientek of Little Falls was 3-for-4 with four RBI vs. Sartell.
Track and Field -- Pillager's Mark Gaalswyk won the pole vault and 300 hurdles at the John Reimer Invitational. Teammate Jeff Pace won the long and triple jumps.
Pierz's Zach Solinger won the 1600- and 3200-meter runs at the Reimer Invitational.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.