Basketball was the first sport on Chad Ljunggren’s mind when he arrived at NCAA Division III St. Norbert College.
“One of my basketball teammates also played baseball, and he asked me to come out and hit with him, so I did,” Ljunggren said. “He said, ‘You should come out and play baseball.’”
So the 6-foot guard, who played in four games as a freshman for SNC’s men’s basketball team in 2010-11, decided to continue his baseball career as well.
After starting 28 games last season, Ljunggren had a new college priority.
“I didn’t want to play two sports,” the Prairie Ridge product said. “So, I told the basketball coach, and he was great about it.”
Ljunggren’s transition to baseball paid big dividends this spring.
As the team’s starting shortstop, Ljunggren hit .338 with a team-high 14 stolen bases as the Green Knights won a school-record 27 games. While driving in 29 runs, Ljunggren helped SNC win the Midwest Conference Tournament and play in an NCAA regional, where the team won its first NCAA game in school history.
Ljunggren was honored as one of two MWC North Division all-conference shortstops.
“It was the first time in my life that I didn’t go from basketball right into baseball,” said Ljunggren, who rebounded after a difficult start on the team’s nine-game, season-opening trip to Florida.
“I started off pretty terrible,” Ljunggren said. “My approach at the plate got better as the season went on. And, I also got better in the field. I started making more routine plays.”
Ljunggren, who started the season batting third, eventually settled into the sixth and seventh spots, where he was able to spark SNC’s offense, thanks in part to his 23 walks, which ranked second on the team.
“I’m not a big power guy,” said Ljunggren, who is playing this summer with the Green Bay Storm of the Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League. “I wanted to get on base, take a couple of walks and hopefully steal a couple of bases. To hit .338 and be all-conference and overcome [the slow start] was my biggest accomplishment.”
Knaack wins CCIW honor: McHenry West grad Lauren Knaack, who recently completed her soccer career at D-III Illinois Wesleyan, was named the 2011-12 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Woman of the Year on Monday.
In voting by CCIW administrators, Knaack won the award and will represent the CCIW in the NCAA Woman of the Year voting later this year. The award recognizes academic and athletic excellence, along with service and leadership.
A biology (pre-medicine) major, Knaack graduated this spring magna cum laude with a 3.75 grade-point average and earned a prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarship while volunteering with multiple organizations on campus and in the Bloomington-Normal area.
A midfielder for the Titans, Knaack was honored as a National Soccer Coaches Association of America all-region perfomer for the past two years. During that time, she also served as team captain.
Redbird honored: Senior outfielder Lizzie Andrews was one of two Illinois State softball players named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team last month.
A Jacobs grad, Andrews led the team with a .320 batting average and 11 doubles this season. Andrews scored 33 runs and drove in 25 for ISU (37-23), which advanced to the championship of the NCAA Regional in Columbia, Mo. The Redbirds lost to No. 9 Missouri, 2-1, in the final to finish 2-2 in the postseason.
ISU posted shutout wins against Massachusetts (1-0) and DePaul (3-0) in regional play.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com.