Evansville’s baseball program wasn’t just battling the nation’s No. 4 team Thursday at Vanderbilt.
The Aces and junior center fielder Kevin Kaczmarski, a Prairie Ridge graduate, were faced with a game-time temperature of 33 degrees and winds that made Nashville feel like North Dakota.
“It was a mental battle to start with,” Kaczmarski said. “The wind chill was about 20 degrees.”
With one swing of his bat, Kaczmarski fired up the entire Evansville team.
Thanks to a first-inning, bases-loaded triple that put the Aces ahead, 3-0, Kaczmarski and his teammates put together an impressive 8-3 victory.
“Everybody was pretty pumped up,” he said. “[The triple] gave us a little bit of a spark. It gave us some comfort and gave us some confidence to be up 3-0.”
In the second inning, Evansville added three more runs to go up, 6-0.
“We just played our game,” said Kaczmarski, who is batting fourth in the Aces’ lineup this season. “It’s huge, especially for a little school like us.”
Now in his third year as the starting center fielder, Kaczmarski has had a major impact on the team’s offensive output.
A first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference player last season, Kaczmarski has started this year strong. He is batting .333 and leading the team in RBIs (nine), slugging percentage (.630), doubles (four) and stolen bases (5 for 5) for the Aces (4-3), who are off to their best start since 2006.
“Overall, I’m just playing with more confidence,” Kaczmarski said.
Batting fourth in the order has given Kaczmarski more RBI opportunities. Last season, he led off for the Aces.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” he said of his spot in the lineup. “Last year, what was best for the team was for me to hit in the one hole. This year, what’s best is for me to be in the four hole.”
As one of the top players in the MVC, Kaczmarski is sure to draw attention from professional scouts this season in advance of the amateur draft in June.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to play at that level,” said Kaczmarski, whose father, Randy, played professionally in the San Diego Padres’ organization. “It’s something to strive for. But you just have to go out and play.”
D’Angelo among nation’s best: McHenry West grad Laura D’Angelo helped Olivet Nazarene place second last weekend at the National Christian College Athletic Association indoor track and field meet in Bourbonnais.
In the process, the freshman achieved NCCAA All-America honors in three events.D’Angelo placed second in the 400 meters (59.06 seconds) as an individual. She also ran a leg on the second-place 4x200 (1 minute, 42.95 seconds) and 4x400 (3:57.57) relay teams.
D’Angelo and her teammates also will compete in the NAIA national meet beginning Thursday in Geneva, Ohio.
Freeman shines at Southern: Josh Freeman of Cary-Grove set another personal record in the shot put last week at the EIU Friday Night Special meet in Charleston.
While winning the event with a throw of 63 feet, 9 inches, Freeman extended his own SIU indoor school record by 7 inches and set the meet and facility records at EIU’s Lantz Fieldhouse.
Freeman, a sophomore, ranks No. 12 nationally in the shot put.
St. Ambrose standouts: Ty Balduf (Marian Central) and Isaiah Mosher (Crystal Lake Central) earned conference titles and spots on the all-conference list at the Midwest Collegiate Conference indoor track and field meet last month.
The local athletes helped NAIA St. Ambrose University place second as a team.
Balduf, a sophomore, entered the meet with the league’s fifth-best time in the 3,000-meter run. He held off reigning MCC cross country and 5,000-meter champ T.J. Mosbach to win the race in 9:15.39. Balduf won the race by almost 4 seconds.
Mosher, a freshman, finished second in the long jump to earn All-MCC honors. His leap of 20 feet, 11¼ inches was less than 4 inches behind event winner Sam Taylor of William Penn (21-2¾).
Thunder junior takes 2nd: Jacobs grad Dan Olsen placed second last week at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin wrestling meet.
Olsen, a 184-pound junior at Wheaton College, lost his weight class title match, 6-2, to North Central’s Thomas Reyhons, who won the meet’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
For the season, Olsen has a 22-7 record for Wheaton, which placed third in the team standings.
• 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.