Nick Richter proved this spring he knows how to get around the basepaths, stealing a school-record and NCAA Division I-best 41 bases in his first season at Rider University.
“He knows how to get in scoring position,” Rider coach Barry Davis said. “A lot of it is instincts. He has a good idea of potential situations when he can steal a base.”
This summer, Richter is speeding his way around another ballpark, but in a very different fashion.
Most nights, the Cary-Grove graduate is hustling around Warner Park in Madison, Wisconsin, as a member of the gameday operations intern team for the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.
“I’m the beer guy,” Richter said with a laugh. “I run kegs around and work with the beer vendors. These [fans] like their beer up here.”
A business administration major, Richter said the internship appealed to him because it involved baseball. The Northwoods League includes 18 teams of college-aged players who play a 74-game schedule from May through August.
“I like being around the game,” Richter said. “I feel like I know it well.”
Richter’s knowledge and talents were on full display this season at Rider, which is located in Princeton, N.J.
“I didn’t know exactly what we were getting,” Davis said of Richter, who played two seasons at McHenry County College before transferring to Rider as a junior. “We were losing a four-year starter [at third base]. I thought Nick could come in and stabilize that position.”
Richter started the season batting fourth, then quickly moved up .
“It was about Game 8 or 10 that we put him in the leadoff spot, and he flourished,” Davis said.
Along with tying for the national lead in steals, Richter batted .321 while starting every game for the Broncs (16-33). He also led the team with 61 hits, 41 runs scored and a .420 on-base percentage.
“I like getting things started,” Richter said. “I didn’t really know my role coming in. [This season] has given me a lot of confidence.”
Richter’s stolen-base total led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and matched Furman infielder Hunter Burton for the NCAA title. He earned Rider’s Most Valuable Player award and second-team All-MAAC and second-team All-New Jersey Division I honors.
Richter said the Mallards also offered him a chance to play this season, but his internship duties came first.
“We’re at the park at 9 a.m. (for a 7 p.m. game) and we can stay as late as midnight,” he said. “The team plays every day and it just wasn’t going to work out with my schedule.”
So instead of matching wits with opposing pitchers and catchers, Richter said he tries to solve kegs offering too much foam.
“I told the folks up there, ‘You might have your best player out there selling tickets,’” Davis said.
Albano honors: Jacobs grad Ben Albano, a senior outfielder at D-II Lewis University, was honored this month by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association with a spot on its honorable mention All-America team.
The recognition is part of a slew of honors collected this season by Albano, who batted a career-best .391 for the Flyers (26-25).
He was named a semifinalist for the Tino Martinez Award, which is given to D-II’s most outstanding player each season. Albano also was selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Midwest Region first team and the Daktronics All-Midwest Region first team.
While also earning first-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division honors, Albano led the league in slugging percentage (.651), ranked second in doubles (career-best 17) and was third in batting average and total bases (110).
Last month, Albano was named to the Capital One Academic All-America D-II second team. A business administration major, Albano entered the spring semester with a 3.60 grade-point average.
All-region standouts: Carthage senior Vicki Pyan (Crystal Lake South) and Augustana junior Jenna Teson (Jacobs) earned softball all-region honors this spring from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Pyan, who plays third base, was named to the All-Great Lakes Region first team after batting .389 this season with 10 doubles, four homers and 25 RBIs. This season, Pyan became Carthage’s career leader in doubles (45) and hit by pitches (50). She tied for the career lead in runs scored (117).
Teson, who plays second base, earned second-team all-region honors by batting .365 and ranking second on the team with 40 runs, 58 hits and 10 stolen bases. She drove in 24 runs.
Teson was the co-winner of Augustana’s Best Defensive Player Award.
Valpo slugger: Huntley grad Amanda Wisniewski led the Horizon League with 12 home runs this season for D-I Valparaiso University’s softball team.
A senior utility player, Wisniewski started all 58 games for the Crusaders (24-34) while posting eight doubles, 30 RBIs and a .483 slugging percentage. During her four-year career at Valpo, Wisniewski started 220 games.
• 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.