POCATELLO – Highland senior Braxton Wilhelm made a steep progression in a short period of time on the diamond.
Highland baseball coach Christian Colonel said he didn’t know if Wilhelm would make the varsity team before his junior year. Then, Wilhelm became one of Highland’s best players last season and college baseball was destined thanks to his strong commitment to improving before his junior season that continues onward.
“That whole offseason he worked his butt off and became our best hitter on varsity last year,” Colonel said. “So that shows his determination and his grit. That’s carried over to this year.”
He’s taken a big turn for the best for our team as a leader and that’s going to carry over for next year for him to at the college level.”
Wilhelm commemorated his decision to sign with the Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team Wednesday at Highland High School.
“It’s just a huge accomplishment in my book,” Wilhelm said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I just always dreamed of playing college baseball and now it's finally coming true. It just feels surreal.”
The Highland infielder is coming off a season in which he was a 5A District 5-6 first-teamer and a Journal All-Area second-teamer after tallying a .397 batting average, a .579 on-base percentage, 31 hits and 15 stolen bases.
Colonel said versatility is one of Wilhelm’s biggest strengths.
“Versatility is huge because it’s invaluable,” Colonel said. “A coach wants you to play wherever. He doesn’t want you locked in one spot.”
While Wilhelm has made a major leap over the last two years, he has worked at his craft since he was around 7 years old. He loves the sport as much for its mental demands as its physical.
“Baseball’s a really difficult sport,” Wilhelm said. “It’s a real mental sport. You have your ups and downs.”
A college destination must feel like home for student-athletes and Wilhelm sees Dakota Wesleyan as one.
“The coaches were really nice,” Wilhelm said. “It’s really similar to Pocatello, Idaho. The players are really friendly and I just really feel like I fit in there.”
He said he will be a utility player for the NAIA school, located in Mitchell, South Dakota. In the 2019 season, the Tigers won more games than they have in three years, going 23-23 and 16-12 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
Wilhelm signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the program around two weeks ago. The senior will receive athletic and academic scholarship money.
He has been as studious in the classroom as he is in baseball, racking up enough college credits in high school to be en route to a master’s degree by his senior year in college.
“My parents pushed me to take a lot of college credit classes and now I’m going into college with 42 college credits, so it feels really good,” said Wilhelm, who was also was offered scholarship money to play for the Treasure Valley Community College baseball team.
It is a different challenge to do what he has done as a high school student-athlete at the college level, but he says if he continues doing what he has done, he will succeed.
“I’m just really excited to play at that college level and be able to compete a lot farther away from home,” Wilhelm said. “I’m excited to experience new country, how it is in South Dakota.”