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Trusting his swing

Former Sleepy Eye slugger Carter Brinkman now formidable hitter with Winona State

Submitted photo from Pete Watkins/WSU

Years of patience, learning and

a drive to play baseball has led

outfielder Carter Brinkman to becoming

one of the Winona State

University baseball team’s most

Submitted photo from Pete Watkins/WSU

formidable hitters.

Brinkman, a two-time All-Journal

baseball player and 2018 Sleepy Eye High School

graduate, came into his own during his senior year for

the Division 2 Warriors. WSU’s season finished up last

Submitted photo from Pete Watkins/WSU

week with a 17-23 overall record and a 14-12 conference

mark.

After the Warriors’ final game this season in the

Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament,

a 7-1 loss to the University of Minnesota Duluth,

Submitted photo from Pete Watkins/WSU

Brinkman ended as the team’s leading hitter with a

.301 batting average.

He also finished second on the team in RBIs (28)

and slugging percentage (.485), while hitting four

homers and nine doubles.

Submitted photo from Pete Watkins/WSU

Despite all of Brinkman’s successes in high school,

which included a second-place finish in the Class A

state tournament in 2018, his production and leadership

in college didn’t come overnight.

Getting started

Brinkman redshirted his 2019 season of college

ball.

While he wasn’t taking the field in games, he used

the spring of 2019 to learn all he could at the college

baseball level.

“Especially for hitting, what I took away (from

2019) was hitting off-speed or even just hitting the

pitch that I know I can,” Brinkman said. “I experienced

a lot of failures trying to do too much too early,

and that kind of just dug me a hole, and that’s hard to

get out of. But I would say definitely focusing on my

strengths and being able to build off of what I know I

can do definitely helped me.”

In 2020, Brinkman had hopes and goals of getting

on the field and making his impact known. But the

COVID-19 pandemic shut down those hopes and

goals early on in the season, forcing Brinkman to turn

his attention back to learning and developing in other

ways.

“The beginning of 2020 I was really expecting to

have a breakout season after my redshirt year and use

what I’ve gotten better with,” Brinkman said. “Then

that all kind of got shut down … so I had to deal with

that. I wasn’t getting the playing time at the beginning

of the year that I was expecting, but with as many

games that we do play, I was hoping to get my chance

and eventually use that to my advantage — getting

those opportunities that I want after using a whole

year as a redshirt.

“Getting shut down was very frustrating. Again, I

just had to use the time to get better — lift weights,

stay in cages, keep playing, and once amateur ball

could get going again, getting live at-bats is also crucial

to getting better and not letting the rust overtake

the abilities.”

First-year starter

Brinkman’s patience and commitment paid off in

2021 as he became a first-year starter as a junior.

During that 2021 campaign, Brinkman started all

36 games he played in and hit .283 with five home

runs, four triples, four doubles and 17 RBIs.

“I knew after watching so many games, I knew

that I could play at that level,” Brinkman said. “That

was definitely key for me. I always had confidence

and confidence is something that has only grown with

me as a baseball player. It’s tough to be successful in

the field — especially at this level — if you have no

confidence. Focusing on failure was a big setback, and

I realized just to let it go and to just trust my swing.

That’s the best mindset to the approaches in the batter’s

box. My swing is what got me here and figuring

out the mental side is the rest of the game.”

The Warriors finished the 2021 season with a 22-20

record overall and a 19-16 conference mark.

Breaking out

This past season, Brinkman took a a big leap as one

of the Warriors’ top players and leaders. In addition to

his team-best batting average, Brinkman earned a little

recognition around the conference this season.

He was named one of the NSIC’s top baseball

performers of the week on April 18 after hitting .400

across five games with a double and three RBIs.

His 2019 and 2020 “learning seasons” are in the

past, but Brinkman said he’s continuing to learn about

the game at the college level.

“I’ve learned so much at this level, and I’m still

learning every day,” Brinkman said. “Failure is such

a large part in the game that I’ve realized to make it

easier on myself just by forgetting about it. I’ve spent

way too much time being frustrated and realizing that

this is what’s actually holding me back. By hitting the

delete button and focusing on the next at-bat is what

helps me get back on track.”

In addition to his offense this past season, Brinkman

was also steady in the field with a .962 fielding

percentage.

Brinkman only just finished his second full year of

playing, but he was already looked at to be a leader on

a young team that had 12 freshman on it.

“We’re a really young team right now, so some of

the freshman are getting experience, and that’s something

I’ve never had,” Brinkman said. “So I’ve always

told them that if they’re seeing some failure that that’s

going to happen, especially at their age. They haven’t

had much experience at all … and (I’ve told them) to

keep your head up, stay focused, stay concentrated.

I’ve been there for quite some time, and it’s very frustrating,

but look past it and not lose confidence.”

While he missed out on finishing as an All-Conference

player this year, Brinkman was still very productive

and has his sights set even higher next season.

“One of my major goals for every year is to help the

team win,” Brinkman said. “I think by doing that by having

an above .300 or .300 average gives the team a lot of

opportunities for me to get on base and drive in runs and

score runs to help my team win as a hitter.

“I think for next year, doing the same thing. … It’s

very tough to be that consistent throughout the whole

year, but to be a .300-plus, .350-plus hitter throughout

the year is a big goal of mine. And if I were to

get All-Conference, that’s a great award, and I would

shoot for that, too, but I would definitely like to be an

above .300 hitter and help my team win games.”

What’s next?

While Brinkman is eligible for two more years of

college baseball due to redshirting in 2019 and 2020

season shutdown, he plans to return for just one more

year of college baseball in 2023. Finishing up with his

schooling in 2022 will allow Brinkman to put even

more into his game next year.

“I’m going to be staying here a fifth year, so next

year, and then just using my third year of eligibility

and then as of right now, just being done after next

year,” Brinkman said.

Before that, though, Brinkman will turn his attention

to the amateur baseball season this spring and

summer, where he will certainly be one of the Sleepy

Eye Indians’ biggest threats.

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