When few pitchers knew his name last year, Eric Aguilera thrived.
“I was a bit of an unknown commodity last year,” said Aguilera, who hit .330 with a team-high seven home runs last season after coming off an injury-plagued redshirt year in 2011.
Despite being one of the most well-known players this spring in Division I Illinois State’s lineup, Aguilera is off to a hot start again.
As a senior outfielder for the Redbirds, the Cary-Grove graduate is leading the team with a .342 average, seven doubles and 17 RBIs. His .500 slugging percentage also leads ISU.
“I came in with pretty high expectations,” said Aguilera, a first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection last season. “I’m pretty pleased with the start I’ve had. But there are always things to work on and get better at.”
This spring, Aguilera ranks second in the MVC in doubles, third in RBIs and fourth in total bases (38).
Aguilera’s biggest adjustment has been working against pitchers who now know him well from scouting reports.
“I am getting pitched a little differently,” he said. “I’m more of a pull hitter, and I’m not getting too many inside pitches.”
Instead, Aguilera is seeing plenty of breaking balls and changeups and fewer fastballs.
“Over the course of four at-bats [in a game], maybe five or six [fastballs],”he said. “I’ve been more selective. I haven’t been afraid to take pitches.”
After taking only five walks last season, Aguilera has eight walks through his team’s first 19 games.
The Redbirds (10-9) earned a signature win March 12 on their spring trip to Florida with a 17-6 victory at Miami as Aguilera went 2 for 5 with three runs.
While taking more walks this season, Aguilera has only one home run this spring despite the Redbirds leading the MVC in that category.
“I’ll let the other guys keep hitting them, and I’ll take the doubles as long as we win,” he said.
Warhawks finish second: Crystal Lake South grad Katie Burton played a key role in D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater’s best women’s basketball season in school history.
The Warhawks (26-7) ended their season last weekend with a 69-51 loss in the national championship game to top-ranked and unbeaten DePauw (34-0).
The finish was Whitewater’s best since women’s basketball became an intercollegiate sport at the school in 1966, while the 26 wins was the second-best total in a single season.
Burton, a junior guard, played in every game for Whitewater, starting 15 times. She averaged 5.6 points a game and 2.6 rebounds.
D-III mat standouts: Jacobs grad Dan Olsen achieved All-America wrestling honors last weekend for Wheaton College at the NCAA nationals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Olsen, a sophomore 184-pounder making his first appearance at nationals, finished 3-2 in the event to take seventh place.
The unseeded Olsen beat No. 7 seed Brian Broll of Buena Vista, 4-2, in the opening round. He also posted a victory by pin in 24 seconds in a consolation match. Olsen finished his season with a 29-5 record.
Jake Fredricksen, a senior 141-pounder at Wisconsin-Whitewater, was part of a Warhawk team that posted its best finish ever, placing third. Fredricksen, a Woodstock grad, went 0-2 in the meet. He finished the season with a 32-9 record and also earned recognition as a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association D-III All-Academic Scholar Team.
Alden-Hebron grad Tyler Henken, a sophomore 141-pounder at Wisconsin-Platteville, was his school’s only qualifier and finished 0-2 in the meet. For the season, he posted a record of 11-12.
Bats lead Winona: D-II Winona (Minn.) State’s softball offense has received a big boost from senior second baseman Kaitlin Hardie (Crystal Lake South) and freshman outfielder Reed Karsten (Marengo).
The duo has driven in a combined 29 runs this season while helping the Warriors to a 15-5 start.
Karsten ranks second on the team with a .433 batting average and leads the Warriors in runs scored (23), hits (29) and stolen bases (five). Karsten has started every game this season.
Hardie’s .500 on-base percentage is second on the team. She is batting .395 with 14 RBIs. On the team’s recent eight-game spring trip to Florida, Hardie batted .474 with 8 RBIs and a grand slam homer.
• 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.