For much of the offseason at Winona (Minn.) State University, Chase Blazier spent time working on a pitch he has yet to throw in a baseball game.
“I worked all through the fall on a circle changeup,” said Blazier, a Harvard graduate. “But I was throwing it so it was sort of like a screwball.”
Blazier already had a “split change” in his repertoire, which he said has the action of a split-finger fastball, dropping rapidly as it nears the batter, while maintaining the slower velocity of a changeup.
“I wasn’t throwing the [circle changeup] very well, so a week before our first game, I went back to the split change,” he said.
For Blazier, a sophomore who pitched last season at McHenry County College, the pitch has paid impressive dividends this spring.
In three starts for NCAA Division II Winona, Blazier is 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA for the Warriors (6-6).
“It’s been totally unexpected,” Blazier said. “I’ve just been pounding the (strike) zone, and I’ve had a really good defense behind me.”
Blazier’s control has been impressive. In 17 innings, he has not allowed a walk while striking out 10 batters.
“I’ve always believed in myself, but I am a little surprised,” Blazier said. “I didn’t think I’d start out this way.”
Blazier credited his one season at MCC with improving his mental approach to pitching.
“Just being at the college level really helps you mature,” he said. “I was a bit of a hothead in high school.”
One visit to the mound from MCC coach Jared Wacker helped Blazier amend his ways.
“In my second or third game, I got a little upset,” Blazier said. “Things weren’t going my way. Jared came out and told me to knock that stuff off.”
Blazier said he now takes note when he sees others lose their composure.
“Now I see guys from other schools that we play doing it,” he said.
While Blazier has been a model of efficiency on the mound, he credited Winona’s coaches with getting the most from their pitching staff in workouts.
“I like the way we conduct our practices,” he said. “At most schools, the pitchers are there with the hitters and we just sit around. Here, we get in, we do our work and we get out. It’s streamlined. You don’t come in and do [a drill], then sit around for 40 minutes before you do something else.”
Red-hot Huskie Youelle: NIU freshman women’s tennis player Nelle Youel improved to 16-0 this season at No. 1 singles with a straight-set victory Wednesday in the Huskies’ 7-0 win at Emporia (Kan.) State.
The victory helped NIU improve to 14-2, which is the most dual-meet wins in a season since 1997. In that season, the Huskies finished 15-9.
Youel, a Crystal Lake Central graduate, also won at No. 1 doubles in Kansas to improve to 15-1 in doubles with teammate Arantza De La Torre.
Super Ranger Slivka: Johnsburg grad Danielle Slivka was named a second-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference choice in women’s basketball this season.
A junior forward at D-II Wisconsin-Parkside, Slivka led the Rangers (20-9) with 7.4 rebounds a game while contributing 8.7 points a game. Slivka was Parkside’s leading rebounder in 19 games and had a season-best 12 rebounds Feb. 21 against Saint Joseph’s College.
Parkside earned an NCAA tournament bid this season for the fourth consecutive year. The Rangers are a No. 7 seed in an eight-team regional this weekend in Ashland, Ohio.
Oakland honoree Jacoby: Prairie Ridge grad Nolan Jacoby was named Summit League Baseball Player of the Week on Monday after batting .385 last week for D-I Oakland (Mich.) University.
Jacoby, a senior catcher for the Golden Grizzlies, went 4 for 5 with three doubles in a 6-4 victory March 9 against Ohio. Jacoby had two runs scored in the win and drove in a run.
For the week, he posted four doubles and a .692 slugging percentage.
Jacoby, who also has seen time at first base this season, is batting .263 with a team-high six doubles for Oakland (2-8).
Goalie Dierking recognized: D-III Lake Forest College junior women’s hockey goaltender Stacey Dierking was named an honorable mention All-Northern Collegiate HockeyAssociation selection last month.
Dierking, a Crystal Lake Central grad, had a 12-5 record in goal and a .938 save percentage for the Foresters (15-7-4). She had a 1.71 goals-against average.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.