It happened by coincidence, but four former Northfield High School baseball players wound up at Luther College for a reason.
Former NHS players Eric Pittman, Aldon Severson, Mitch Patrikus and Eli Patrikus have all found themselves in Decorah, Iowa, and all involved with the baseball team.
“Decorah is definitely a Northfield kind of town,” Luther senior shortstop Eric Pittman said. “It just feels a lot like Northfield.”
Pittman transferred from Augsberg College, while Luther senior Mitch Patrikus transferred from Carthage College to lead the wave of former Northfield baseball players to Decorah.
Pittman is a co-captain and was named the team’s offensive player of the year last season. He was named first team all-Iowa Conference at shortstop, hitting .336 with 13 RBI. He also played football at Luther last fall. Through nine games this season, Pittman has hit .421 with 11 RBI.
Mitch Patrikus gave baseball a try his freshman year, but after struggling on the mound decided to become a student manager to remain with the team and friends.
“I just do this to stay around the game I love,” Patrikus said.
Patrikus and Pittman visited Luther after making their college choices, but fell in love with the campus when the pair visited friends on the there prior to starting college. They returned in November and eventually both decided Luther suited them better than their respective colleges.
Aldon Seveson followed Patrikus and Pittman to Luther, but also not by design. Seveson, a junior who was named the team’s most improved player last season after hitting .325 with 10 RBI, chose Luther for similar reasons as Pittman and Patrikus. Severson started 24 games last season. This year, Severson has hit .345 with six RBI.
“I think it was a good fit for us,” Severson said. “It’s been great with Mitch and Eric being here ahead of me. It’s comforting because they’re familiar faces. It’s a bond that’s nice to have that not many collegiate athletes have.”
Severson stayed with Pittman during his official visit and it wasn’t long after that Severson began buttoning up a Luther jersey on the diamond.
Luther freshman Eli Patrikus joined the team in part because of his brother Mitch. The Patrikus family moved to Decorah to be closer to the sons.
Pittman is in the hiring process with Edward Jones. He is majoring in Economics and will graduate this spring. Mitch Patrikus accepted an offer from Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. to become part of the financial advising firm.
Severson is a communication studies major and wants to pursue a career in public relations or marketing following graduation.
“A lot of people say that Luther is the St. Olaf of Iowa,” Severson said. “It’s a beautiful place. It’s a small, tight-knit campus. They promote the family environment.’
For each, the balancing act of playing sports and academics has been a work in progress.
“It really was tough,” Pittman said. “It probably took me two years to figure it out, but you realize napping is probably lower on the priority scale than homework.”
Pittman’s success has come after struggles in his first two seasons. He played in 18 games as a freshman and went 2-for-28 at the plate. His sophomore season, Pittman played with a broken hand and could only bunt at the plate, he said. Things came together in his junior year and he had a breakout year.
Decorah has become a comforting place for Pittman.
“It feels just like Northfield,” Pittman said. “I would love to go to school at St. Olaf or Carleton but there comes a point where everyone has to leave the nest.”
Nick Gerhardt is the Northfield News’ sports editor. You can reach him at 645-1111. Follow him on Twitter @NorthfieldNick.