Summer collegiate baseball leagues often provide plenty of opportunities.
Carter Lawler and James Raffauf have taken full advantage of those chances.
Lawler, a Hampshire graduate, and Raffauf, a Marian Central grad, will both be on the field Saturday night in Whiting, Indiana, as part of the West team for the Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game, thanks to their strong summer seasons.
“At the beginning of the summer, I immediately jelled with my team and I thought, ‘This makes me enjoy baseball,’” said Raffauf, a pitcher for the DuPage County Hounds. “The part that feels so good is that people are recognizing my hard work.”
Raffauf has been one of the league’s top pitchers while working as a starter and a reliever. He is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA and has collected 21 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.
Lawler has had similar success pitching for the Joliet Generals.
His 3-1 record has come mainly as a starter, and he has compiled 32 strikeouts in 29 innings.
“I found my breaking ball, which I thought I lost a little bit this year,” Lawler said. “I’ve been working the inside half of the plate, and it’s setting up my slider.”
Along with strategic use of his breaking pitches, Lawler has relied on improved velocity, thanks to a season of training at NCAA Division II University of Illinois-Springfield.
“Every week, I just saw my velocity go up and up and up,” he said. “I just keep getting stronger.”
Entering college, Lawler said he was throwing about 85 mph. This summer, he has reached as high as 89 mph.
Lawler’s UIS team finished 47-9, won its first Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division title, qualified for the NCAA tournament and reached as high as No. 2 in the country in national rankings. On a roster with 23 pitchers, Lawler threw only three innings out of the bullpen.
He has departed UIS and is examining several opportunities.
“My goal is to be a starter,” Lawler said. “I’m a believer in you need to get out there and work through it to get better. You can only do so much watching.”
Raffauf, who spent last season at Heartland Community College, is moving on as well to team up with a familiar face.
He will attend Oakton Community College, which won the NJCAA Division III national title this spring, and play with Jack Splett, a former teammate with the Illinois Indians travel program.
“He was always my catcher (in travel ball),” Raffauf said. “He said, ‘We’re looking for some pitchers. We can get it back together at Oakton.’”
Raffauf’s summer success has come as a result of impressive control.
“I believe in my stuff in any count,” Raffauf said. “My fastball, I’ve been locating it well. My slider and curveball, I have them whenever I need it.”
His command of multiple pitches has helped Raffauf grow his confidence, and it has shaped his simple goal for the all-star game.
“To go out and dominate against the best players in the league,” he said. “I like to be confident when I go in.”
Hahn aces Amateur: Richmond-Burton grad Jordan Hahn posted an impressive performance last month at the Southwestern Amateur in Scottsdale, Arizona, finishing third in the 103rd version of the tournament.
Hahn shot a 10-under-par 270 (66-67-67-70) and held the lead on the final day, when he began his round with a birdie and followed with 13 consecutive pars at The Desert Mountain Club.
Hahn, who will be a senior this fall at Wisconsin, competed this summer at the U.S. Open sectional qualifying tournament in Ohio. He placed 24th out of 65 golfers, including ninth among amateurs. He finished only six strokes off the qualifying score.
Success on the mat: Travis Piotrowski, who will be a junior at Illinois this fall, advanced to the quarterfinals at last month’s U23 World Team Trials in Akron, Ohio.
Competing in the 57-kilogram weight class, Piotrowski (Prairie Ridge) did not give up a point in his first three matches before a 12-8 victory in the quarterfinals. Piotrowski’s only two losses in the tournament were by two points each, in the quarterfinal and consolation rounds.
A two-time NCAA qualifier, Piotrowski tied his career high with 19 wins last season for the Illini.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.