Connor Wietgrefe has been ascending the pitching ranks since graduating from Prior Lake High School in 2021.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-hander started his collegiate career at Northern Iowa Area Community College, pitched last season at the Division I level at the University of Minnesota and has spent two summers in the highly competitive Northwoods League.
Wietgrefe was recruited by several Division I schools — Illinois, Creighton, Bradley, St. Thomas, North Dakota State and South Dakota State — after his one season at Northern Iowa Area.
But picking Minnesota seemed like an easy choice.
“I chose Minnesota because I have been a huge Gopher fan my whole life, going to many different sporting events,” he told gophersports.com. “Playing for the Gopher baseball team has been a lifelong dream.
“After attending my first prospect camp my sophomore year of high school, where I got to meet the coaches, get a tour of the campus and see how the program operated, is the day that confirmed my dream that this is where I wanted to be.”
Minnesota pitching coach Ty McDevitt was a fan of Wietgrefe when he was pitching for the Lakers.
“He has a long track record of dominating his competition and seems to pitch best in big games,” McDevitt said. “Needing to add velocity, he spent a season at NIACC. His low, three-fourths crossfire delivery makes for uncomfortable at bats, especially for left-handed hitters.”
It didn’t take long for Wietgrefe to prove he could pitch at the Division I level. He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week in May.
Overall, Wietgrefe made 22 appearances for the Gophers in his first season, posting a 2-3 record with five saves and a 3.83 earned-run average. He had 58 strikeouts, which led the team’s bullpen, in 44 2/3 innings, allowing just 33 hits.
Opposing teams had just a .205 batting average against him. Minnesota finished last season with 18-34 overall record (10-14 in the Big Ten).
At Northern Iowa Area, Wietgrefe showed his strikeout potential. He made 13 appearances in his first college season, going 5-1 with a 5.05 earned-run average.
However, he fanned 59 batters in 46 1/3 innings and averaged 11.46 strikeouts per nine innings.
In the Northwoods League, Wietgrefe has pitched for the Minnesota Mud Puppies and the St. Cloud Rox the last two summers, respectively.
He made two starts for the Rox this past season, pitching 18 2/3 innings. He allowed six runs and struck out 31, posing a 2.83 earned-run average.
For the Mud Puppies in 2022, Wietgrefe pitched in four games. He had 12 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings, allowing five earned runs.