Bodenchuk’s stellar season has Mesa in regional play

MESA STATE’S MATT BODENCHUK OVERCAME tough odds during his career as a shortstop for the Mavericks. Bodenchuk was selected Wednesday as the Daktronics Central Region player of the year, one week after being selected as RMAC player of the year.

Matt Bodenchuk knew this season would be different.

After missing the 2008 season following Tommy John surgery, the 2007 All-American shortstop wasn’t so much concerned about his elbow, but how he’d do at the plate.

“I wouldn’t say I doubted myself, but I didn’t think I’d put up the same numbers as my junior year,” Bodenchuk said. “In the past, I’d set goals, but this year, I wanted to come back and be a leader on this team. I wasn’t concerned about putting up numbers to be drafted.”

The Mesa State College senior produced some big numbers his junior year to earn All-American honors and draw the attention of professional baseball scouts. A few weeks later, he completely tore a ligament in his right elbow, requiring the famed
Tommy John surgery. The procedure takes a tendon, usually from a hamstring, forearm, knee or foot, and replaces the damaged elbow ligament. It requires six months to a full year of rehabilitation.

Although Bodenchuk missed last season, he was able to play in a collegiate summer league.

“The biggest thing that helped him come back in good form is he played for the Santa Maria Indians last summer,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “He played just about every game at first base or right field. So all the at-bats helped him get caught up. With skills like hitting, skills are easily retained. If you get running for eight months, you’re going to feel it. The fact he played all summer really helped. His attitude has been great. We’re fortunate to have him back.”

Bodenchuk didn’t duplicate his junior season stats, he bettered them this season and people have noticed.

He was selected the Daktronics Central Region player of the year on Wednesday, one week after he was selected the RMAC player of the year. He is hitting .436 average with a .856 slugging percentage with 82 RBI, which is seventh best in the nation.

“I’ve always taken pride in that (RBI),” Bodenchuk said. “I feel like I can elevate to a different level when I have two strikes and when there are runners in scoring position. I don’t want to put that pressure on someone else. I knew the physical skills were there. I really contribute my success to the mental side and being prepared. The pressure situations weren’t pressure situations anymore. I was focused, having fun and that’s what really paid off this year.”

“I somewhat surprised myself. I knew the numbers I put my junior year were pretty good. I didn’t think I would match those and I didn’t put a lot of emphasis on it either. I played one game at a time and it worked out.”

Bodenchuk, 24, was one of four Mavericks to make the All-Region first team. The others are junior second baseman Kevin Becker, senior pitcher Jason Fronczak and senior pitcher Aaron Guinn. All four are eligible to make the All-American team.

Another Mav, Mike Provencher, made the All-Region second team.

This weekend, Bodenchuk hopes to lead the 29th-ranked Mavericks (39-13) to the NCAA Division II World Series for the first time in school history. Mesa State plays RMAC rival CSU-Pueblo (39-20) at 7 tonight at Suplizio Field.

“We’ve had one goal the entire year and that’s first off win this tournament and get to the national tournament,” Bodenchuk said. “I know we’ve been in a funk, but if you’ve been out at practice, you wouldn’t think that at all. We’ve put in a lot of hard work. It’s time to go have fun and show teams what we can do. For us seniors, this is it. We’re excited.”

The Mavericks will be without four-year starter and leadoff batter Justin Little, who has a broken finger, but pitcher Brent Lamaster was cleared after missing the RMAC tournament with an irregular heart beat.


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