MSU slugger, nursing student Michael Borst swinging for the fences and saving lives

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot State senior Michael Borst swings the bat in an NSIC contest played earlier this season at Corbett Field.

The bone had pierced through the skin and blood was spewing everywhere.

Michael Borst had to act quickly to save his younger brother.

“Every time his heart would pump, it would squirt blood out,” Borst said. “I carried him from the playground of the baseball field I was at for practice to the fire department right next to it. The first thought in my mind was that I have to stop the bleeding. So, I put my thumb in his arm while carrying him.”

Tumbling off a swing set had caused the compound fracture, which cut open the brachial artery, a major blood vessel in the upper arm.

What should have been a peaceful youth baseball practice in the outskirts of Chicago had turned into a gory scene.

Alex Eisen/MDN MSU's Michael Borst sprints down the third base line to score a run in a game played earlier this season in Minot.

Instead of jogging around the bases, a 12-year-old Borst was cradling his 9-year-old brother — the team’s playful bat boy — and sprinting to find help.

“Saved his life,” Borst said. “From that moment, I kind of just knew like, ‘That was cool. I want to keep doing this.’ So, nursing it was. It just felt right.”

Helping others in stressful situations became second nature to Borst.

His father, David Borst, was a firefighter/paramedic for 25 years before retiring, and Michael “Mikie” Borst occasionally found himself right in the middle of the action.

“When (my dad) was off duty, he would have his pager on-hand,” Michael Borst said. “So, whenever there was something around town that he could get to before the fire department, he would do that. I was usually with him, so there are a lot of scenes that I saw at a young age like houses on fire, suspected violence or a possible overdose.”

Borst watched on from the car, intrigued.

“I didn’t want to do that aspect of it, like the high danger,” he said. “I wanted to be more of the helper.”

Combined with his other innate passion for crushing baseballs, Borst swung at the opportunity that allowed him to pursue both careers in college.

Making the move to Minot

Borst knew nothing about Minot State until he received a fateful phone call from former MSU baseball head coach Brock Weppler.

“It was like the week before the early signing period, around November 2014,” Borst said. “(Weppler) just threw it all on the line and said, ‘Hey, come up next weekend and check it out. I will let you play baseball and I’ll let you study nursing.'”

This was the offer Borst had been waiting for. Other larger, Division I schools had turned down his request to study nursing while also playing collegiate baseball due to the overwhelming time commitment needed to fulfill both commitments.

“Minot State was a perfect fit,” said Borst, a native of McHenry, Illinois.

As an added bonus for Borst, a familiar face in Celestino “Sal” Rodriquez also decided to continue his baseball career at Minot State.

“We have been playing baseball together since we were like 8 years old… Played travel ball growing up,” Borst said. “I signed and then he signed the next week.”

Over the last four years, this dynamic duo has ripped apart Minot State’s Division II era record book as deadly cleanup hitters in the middle of the Beavers’ lineup.

Rodriguez recently broke the program’s career home run record, while Borst holds the DII record for most career hits and also went 6-for-6 in a 14-inning game earlier this season to set the record for most hits in a single game. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg with even more individual accolades to be uncovered by the time their senior seasons finally come to a close.

Borst has left his mark on the field.

“Mikie (Borst) came in as a freshman and has a lot of records here,” current MSU baseball head coach Scott Eul said. “His name will be talked about a lot here, but I hope his legacy is more about the drive he has. You want to play with fire and passion, and he does that.”

This was something Borst had to learn how to rein in and control. Something Eul didn’t quite see the full development of since he joined the coaching staff following Borst’s freshman season.

“I went from the young, freshman Mikie that just wanted to play and being that hard-nosed, stubborn kid to a 21-year-old who now understands that you kind of have to slow the game down,” Borst said. “You have to sit in the moment to really understand what is going on.”

The Eul Era

The Beavers posted a 10-33 overall record in Borst’s rookie season. It was MSU’s fourth straight losing season since joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in 2013 and, looking even further back, the Beavers hadn’t put together a winning season since 1996.

Enter Scott Eul. The former St. Cloud State assistant coach turned the Minot State baseball program upside down.

In his first season at the helm in 2017, the Beavers tied a school record for wins in a season with a 29-22 record. The following year, MSU broke that mark with a 34-16 record and won the program’s first-ever NSIC regular season championship.

It was a rapid turnaround out of nowhere.

“Coach Eul just brought in this atmosphere and energy that radiates with the guys,” Borst said. “We didn’t lose a lot of guys and only added a couple of new arms. It was more of the guys just believing in ourselves and coming together as one… It was so nice to have somebody that believed in us and wanted to win. It just clicked.”

Having extensive three- to four-hour practices each day didn’t matter because everyone wanted to improve.

Borst went from being a rotational hitter in the lineup his freshman season to becoming one of the most lethal sluggers in Division II. He led the nation in batting average for a brief stint this season, but has since cooled off to a more than modest .421 average with a team-leading 46 RBIs.

Only seven hitters in Minot State’s history have completed a single season with a batting average over .400. Borst is also chasing down his own single-season program record of 59 RBIs, which he achieved during the 2017 season.

Additionally, with a blast over the left field fence on Saturday, Borst has now belted 19 collegiate home runs.

“We challenged him to be that guy,” Eul said. “Everyone can be a good hitter, but we challenged him to be our next-level hitter for us.”

Borst has the desire to play at the next level and doing so isn’t outside the realm of possibilities. With the MLB First-Year Player Draft being held in June, Borst could become Minot State’s fifth player to ever be drafted.

“The interest has definitely picked up,” Eul said. “We have been getting quite a few calls and I know he has been getting some emails… He could be a guy that sees his name called on draft day.”

From singles to scrubs

If playing baseball professionally doesn’t work out, then Borst can trade one childhood dream for another.

He could put to use those long nights studying on the team bus during road trips or the countless hours spent in the hospital.

Balancing a hectic schedule hasn’t been easy, but Borst manages.

“I’ve had to go to clinical at the hospital, get done at 2 p.m. and then go straight to the bus in my scrubs,” Borst said. “The coaches are understanding and the teachers are super understanding. Everything works well together. I think a part of that is being prepared for that.”

Minot State has seen a handful of student-athletes from various sports enroll and having success in the nursing program. Borst, however, is the first and only baseball player to go through the program.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” he said. “But, they have worked with student-athletes in the past and in student-athlete, student comes first. You just have to make sure you get the stuff done on time and you have to want it.”

Eul added: “That’s a pretty tough major if that’s all you do. Then, being an athlete on top of that with the grades he gets and the numbers he puts up on the baseball field, I knew he was going to be special.”

In order to finish his nursing degree, Borst would need to return to Minot State in the fall. It’s a looming decision he will have to make further down the road. Right now, Borst wants to keep playing baseball “until my body tells me that I can’t.”

The MSU baseball team has 11 regular season games left and a likely return to the NSIC Tournament. After that, uncharted waters, as the Beavers have never reached the NCAA Division II National Tournament.

“I’m an emotional guy, nursing shows that,” Borst said. “There is no doubt in my mind that at the end of the season, whenever it is, I’m just going to enjoy every moment of it while crying my eyes out with the seniors, as well as my other teammates. It has been nice here at Minot State and I have loved every second of it.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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