First-year assistant coach Mike Stawski’s duties for Concordia University Chicago’s baseball team include pitching coach and head assistant coach.
Stawski’s additional work as the team’s strength and conditioning coach has had a big impact on the program, including with Marian Central graduate Steve Zubrzycki.
“I came in as a skinny little guy,” said Zubrzycki, a junior from McHenry who entered college at 135 pounds. “I never knew what to eat, when to eat or how much of it to eat.”
Working with Stawski has changed Zubrzycki’s body and altered his game on the field for the Cougars (14-2), who are ranked seventh nationally in the D3Baseball.com poll this week.
This offseason, Zubrzycki said he gained 13 pounds while working on his nutrition and sculpting his body. He now weighs 160 pounds.
“Steve has definitely worked hard in the weight room,” Concordia head coach Adam Smith said. “He’s a lot stronger this year.”
After starting 41 games last season at third base for a team that lost in an NCAA regional championship game, Zubrzycki is batting .328 with a .423 on-base percentage, 13 RBIs and a team-high 13 stolen bases this season.
Zubrzycki said the added strength has helped him drive more balls through the infield as the team’s new No. 2 hitter. He started last season batting ninth in the order.
“He’s been a real table setter for us,” Smith said.
Zubrzycki began the season at third base again before Smith flipped the junior and shortstop Carlos Olavarria after five games.
“Steve is a more natural shortstop,” Smith said.
Zubrzycki, who played shortstop throughout high school, welcomed the change.
“It only took me a couple of games to get familiar with it again,” he said. “It’s second nature to me.”
In the team’s home-opening doubleheader sweep Monday of Concordia Wisconsin, Zubrzycki went 4 for 10 with three RBIs, three runs and four stolen bases. The wins pushed the Cougars’ victory streak to 10 games in a row.
The Cougars hope their early success translates into an opportunity to advance to the NCAA D-III championships next month in Appleton, Wis.
“[Last year] was a great experience,” Zubrzycki said. “I’ll never forget it. But we’re never going to be satisfied. We have a blue-collar work ethic. We’re all jokesters and we like to have fun, but when it comes time to work, we’re 100 percent focused.”
Records fall for Freeman: Cary-Grove grad Josh Freeman is at it again, this time in the outdoor season.
The sophomore thrower at D-I Southern Illinois was named the Missouri Valley Conference Male Field Athlete of the Week on Tuesday.
At SIU’s Bill Cornell Spring Classic last weekend in Carbondale, Freeman broke the school’s 30-year-old outdoor shot put record on his first throw of the season, which measured 62 feet, 8¾ inches and won the event. The throw also broke the MVC outdoor record. The SIU record formerly belonged to Freeman’s SIU throws coach, John Smith. During the indoor season, he broke Smith’s school record as well.
Freeman’s best throw this spring ranks sixth nationally.
On the first day of the two-day meet, Smith set a personal record in the discus (167-2) to finish second.
Huntley grad at her best: University of Illinois softball catcher Jenna Mychko (Huntley) homered and drove in three runs Tuesday to lift the Illini to a 7-4 win against Illinois State.
Mychko’s 2-for-3 performance at the plate allowed her to reach career highs in home runs (three) and RBIs (15) for the Illini (17-13).
The senior is batting .284 this season while starting 27 games.
Wrestling wrapup: Crystal Lake Central grad Austin Marsden, a sophomore 285-pound wrestler at Oklahoma State, earned his first career All-America honor at last month’s NCAA championships in Oklahoma City.
Marsden, who entered the tournament as the No. 11 seed, finished 3-3 in the tournament to take eighth place in his weight class. Two of his wins came against higher seeds, while his three losses were by a total of four points.
Marsden was the Big 12 Conference champion in his class and finished with a 23-9 record.
Cary-Grove grad Paul Rands, a junior at Navy, qualified for nationals for the first time but suffered an injury that forced him to withdraw from his opening match at the 5:36 mark against Ohio State’s Nick Heflin, the No. 1 seed at 197 pounds. Rands also was forced to forfeit his consolation bout against 16th-seeded Alex Polizzi of Northwestern. Rands finished the season 23-11.
Blackburn basher: Sophomore softball player Mary Chamberlain is hitting a team-best .404 this season for D-III Blackburn College’s softball team.
The Johnsburg grad leads the team with 23 hits, a .491 slugging percentage and a .460 on-base percentage. The Beavers (4-14) have won three of the past nine games after a 1-8 start.
• 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.