Words: Hugh Anderson & Matthew Ludwig
It’s late. 11:50 p.m. to be exact. The cool dirt crunches under dozens of rubber cleats as they hurry across the dark and dusty infield of Fleming Fields. It’s a Wednesday night and Thursday morning class looms in the near hours. However, for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) intramural softball team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this is a routine weeknight.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” senior Colin Bencker said. “The latest baseball game I ever played growing up was probably 7 p.m. So to be on the field almost until midnight was kind of surreal.”
While UNL is nationally recognized for its sports programs such as football and volleyball, a small percentage of total enrolled students reach this level — 845 out of 26,079. Others, such as Colin Bencker, Dylan Dubisar and Michael Reinert of SAE, fulfill their passion for playing sports through intramurals. While each found success throughout their high school athletic careers, these young men are now seeing the difference that Greek life intramurals is making on them. It is giving them a chance, possibly for the last time, to compete in the sports they grew up loving.
From traditional to non-traditional events, intramural sports directly contribute to the physical, social and emotional wellness of students, according to the UNL website. Activities are organized into women, men, co-rec and/or open leagues. Each sport is then broken up into different divisions, which is where fraternities and sororities find themselves competing.
Throughout high school, Bencker played middle infield for the Bennington Badgers baseball team and ended his career with a .932 fielding percentage. After graduating in 2018, Bencker decided to attend UNL and focus on his academics. However, he soon found himself joining SAE and competing on the field once again. Of the 110 active members, 12 joined the softball team.
“We all decided to play softball, even though not everybody had played it or baseball before,” Bencker said. “It was a fall sport and we all enjoy a little competition, so we wanted to go up against other fraternities.”
Chloe Dolan, Bencker’s girlfriend, can see the impact that Greek life intramurals is making on him. Not only does it strengthen the bond between the brothers, but Dolan also said it makes him a better person.
“Softball has impacted Colin in a way that has made him a leader, more driven, resilient and just an overall better person because of the various challenges and achievements that came along with it,” Dolan said. “His attitude on the field reflects his attitude in the classroom, because he is someone that truly never gives up and gives his all with whatever challenge he faces.”
For Bencker, softball is another way to keep close to baseball, his favorite sport. His father, Paul Bencker, is the one credited for instilling this passion.
“I actually own and maintain about 32 baseball fields here in Omaha, Nebraska,” Paul said. “So I think that me being around the fields and Colin working for me as a kid naturally led him to love baseball. He’s out at the fields all the time, so I was not surprised to hear that he is playing softball for his fraternity.”
For Dubisar, playing basketball at Elkhorn South High School, he thrived from behind the arc, shooting over 45% from the three in his senior season.
“Obviously playing high school basketball is very different from playing intramural sports in college,” Dubisar said. “However, I am still able to bring all my competitiveness to the intramurals that I participate in. I have always been a competitive person, so I take every softball game very seriously.”
Dubisar’s mother, Karla Dubisar, said her son’s love for competition is a big factor in his choosing to play intramural softball and basketball.
“Dylan is not just a competitive athlete but also a competitive person,” Karla said. “He really likes to make everything a competition, even when it comes to family activities.”
Although golf was Dubisar’s first love, then basketball, the transition to college helped expand his horizons to compete in any sport his fraternity brothers participate in.
Fellow teammate and SAE member Michael Reinert attended Omaha Westside and played shortstop for the Warriors baseball team. In 2018, he ended the season with one of the highest batting averages in the state — .375. The opportunity to play at multiple junior colleges and Division I schools presented itself, but Reinert decided to attend UNL, major in finance and join SAE. He participates in intramurals such as flag football, basketball, broomball and, most recently, softball.
“There is a lot of communication involved in softball, and I felt as though that and the conversations in the dugout helped me get to know my fraternity brothers,” Reinert said. “We had a few freshmen on our team, so softball was a great way to get to know them and learn more about them.”
Though Reinert, Dubisar and Bencker are all competitive athletes, at the end of the day, they each said they are playing to make memories and take a break from their busy academic lives.
Now that the softball season has come to an end, the SAE brothers set their eyes forward to the winter months where they can unleash their competitiveness once again on the basketball court.
“Deciding to participate in softball and the other intramurals was one of the best decisions I have made while at UNL,” Reinert said. “I still get to play the sports I love while creating a bond with some of the brothers that I don’t know well but who may become some of my best friends.”