BY STEVE KRAH
Jeremy Wiersema left the diamond behind for a time.
When he came back, he started to excel on the baseball field for Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., especially on the base paths.
The Allendale (Mich.) High School graduate was a standout in soccer, football, basketball and baseball during his prep days. He was all-state as a kicker/punter as well as all-conference and all-district in baseball and all-conference in basketball and soccer.
Wiersema stayed near home to be a football kicker at Grand Valley State University in Allendale.
When that experience didn’t meet his expectations he decided to follow another Allendale alum — Cooper Tolson — to Bethel baseball.
Wiersema redshirted in his first football season at GVSU. The next year the season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I really didn’t like it that much,” says Wiersema. “We’d have five-hour practices and only kicking for 15 minutes. It’s not very fun.
“My buddy Cooper texted me. He said (Bethel) needs middle infielders.”
Next thing you know Wiersema is at Bethel — joining the baseball team for the spring semester in 2020 — and working toward a Sport Management degree. He will get that next month.
With another year of college athletic eligibility, Wiersema is considering coming back in the fall. Only he’s thinking about changing to golf.
“I just like to switch up,” says Wiersema, who carries a 3.7 handicap.
Wiersema and first baseman Tolson were two of six Bethel baseball players honored Friday, April 21 on Senior Day. The others are center fielder Andrew Miranda, third baseman Alex Stout and pitchers Hunter Crist and Sam Lewandowski.
In 2023, Wiersema, has been at or near the top among NAIA leaders in stolen bases.
After the Pilots’ first 44 games, he was No. 1 with 40 (in 44 attempts). LSU Shreveport senior Ryan Major was second with 39. Indiana University Purdue University-Columbus freshman Wyatt Sutton was fourth with 35.
Along the way Wiersema has surpassed the Bethel single-season record of 37 set by Kawambe Moss is 2021.
“I just like to do it,” says Wiersema of pilfering bags. “I’ve done it more in college because I’ve figured out the pitching and whatnot and how to steal bases.”
Wiersema stole 22 in 2022 and has copped multiple bases in a game a dozen times, including four and three against Taylor and three twice vs. Indiana Wesleyan and once vs. Marian.
Batting No. 2 in Bethel coach Seth Zartman’s order, the righty-swinging second baseman is hitting .379 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 26 runs batted in and 37 runs scored. His on-base percentage is .413.
“I try to come to the (batter’s) box with a clear mindset,” says Wiersema. “I just really try to focus on driving the ball and hitting it hard somewhere and from there just hustling to first base.
“I’m trying to get on every time. I have a green light (from Zartman). I go off what I feel and my reads.”
The oversized sliding glove — which looks like an oven mitt — has become prevalent in baseball the last few years.
Wiersema now wears one on his right hand but not for necessarily for sliding.
“I didn’t even use one last year,” says Wiersema. “In the first game of the season we were traveling south and I jammed a finger on my right hand.
“(The glove) is just there to protect it.”
Bethel has four more regular-season games left — Crossroads League doubleheaders Friday and Saturday, April 28-29 — at Grace. If the Pilots qualify for the league tournament, that is slated May 3-8 at Huntington.