A Mitchell baseball lifer: Neugebauer looks toward future as DWU baseball career winds down
Landon Neugebauer has spent his entire life in Mitchell.
He was a three-sport standout for the Kernels in high school and he has been a key cog for the Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team for the past four seasons after being a part of head coach John Greicar's first recruiting class.
With eight games left in the regular season, Neugebauer knows that his time as a collegiate athlete is rapidly coming to a close. The senior could potentially be playing his final set of home games when DWU hosts Doane for a pair of Great Plains Athletic Conference doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday at Drake Field.
"Things are starting to wind down and I couldn't be more proud of what I've gone through individually and as a team," Neugebauer said. "As a senior, I couldn't be more proud of what this team has done this year. Last year, we didn't even make the conference tournament and we're near the top of the pack."
Neugebauer has played a crucial role for DWU, which is currently on a six-game winning streak with an 18-17 overall record and 12-8 in the GPAC. The Tigers are in third place in the conference, but if they can finish strong and vault into second, their half of the GPAC tournament bracket will be played in Mitchell.
After going 54-83 during his first three years on campus, Neugebauer is thrilled to have an opportunity to leave DWU on a winning note.
"Dakota Wesleyan has meant so much to me," Neugebauer said. "Being in my hometown, having this success with my family—all these guys are my brothers—I wouldn't want to have it any other way. It really means a lot to me how the community stands behind Dakota Wesleyan. I couldn't be more proud of this team and my hometown just makes it so much better."
During his time at DWU, Neugebauer has found his niche on the diamond and it has had an impact on the Tigers. Hitting has not been the two-time captain's forte. He is hitting a career-best .219 this season, but he is a .199 career hitter.
Where Neugebauer shines brightest is in the field and on the base paths. He has been a utility infielder—splitting time between first and third base—that has committed two errors in 70 chances and has helped DWU to a .963 fielding percentage, which ranks second to Mount Marty in the GPAC.
Neugebauer has been the most-trusted runner for DWU since his freshman season, when he was frequently used as a pinch runner. Despite having a .296 on-base percentage and four stolen bases, he still ranks third on the team with 23 runs scored this year.
"I think he's one of the best runners in the GPAC, if not the best," Greicar said. "He also plays such a good role for us defensively. ... He's just a weapon for us. He's a specialist at a lot of things and defense and baserunning are the things he stands out at."
Regardless of how the season wraps up for DWU, Neugebauer fully intends to keep baseball as a cornerstone in his life. He has already begun applying for marketing positions in Mitchell, Huron and Sioux Falls and he plans to play for amateur ball for the Salem Cubs once again this summer.
"I want to be in baseball my whole life," Neugebauer said. "I fell in love with it at a young age. It's the greatest game ever invented, so it's going to be in my future, for sure."