With his future college coach looking on at the NJCAA Division III World Series, Alex Crinigan endured a tough day on the mound.
In five innings for Oakton Community College, he gave up six earned runs and eight hits.
“It wasn’t too pretty,” Crinigan said of his team’s 12-2 loss to Tyler (Texas) Junior College in Tennessee. “It wasn’t one of my good starts. For him to travel that far to see me throw meant a lot.”
But Jeremy Christian, the head coach at NAIA South Carolina-Beaufort, was undeterred by Crinigan’s bad day.
He continued to recruit Crinigan and got the Hampshire graduate to commit this month as a centerpiece to the Sand Sharks’ recruiting class.
“We’ve been very impressed with Alex since our first conversation several months ago,” Christian said. “It was important for me to see how he held his composure when things weren’t going the way he wanted. He continued to interact positively with his team. That outing confirmed to us what we already knew, that he was a great team player and a leader.”
Two days after the NJCAA loss, Crinigan pitched two hitless innings in relief to lead his team past Tyler for the national championship.
Crinigan (12-3) led the nation in wins, strikeouts (107) and innings pitched (98 1/3) and was honored last month as the NJCAA D-III Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s the biggest award I’ve ever won,” he said.
Beaufort won over Crinigan, who visited almost 10 schools, with its geography and tight-knit atmosphere in the program.
“I wanted to go somewhere warm, but I still wanted my mom to be able to see games whenever she pleases,” he said. “When we were at Beaufort, it felt like home. It was like a big family. The people were so nice. I knew when we left that campus that it was going to be a tough one to beat.”
In the week before his decision, Crinigan visited his three NAIA favorites, checking out the University of St. Francis in Joliet before flying to see Beaufort and Tennessee’s Cumberland University.
Along with being a 10-minute drive from South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, Beaufort affords Crinigan a big opportunity to impact the team’s pitching staff.
Last season, the Sand Sharks finished 20-30 with a team ERA of 8.11 in a rebuilding year.
“I think I’ll get a good chance right away,” Crinigan said. “They’re going to give me a great opportunity.”
Christian said Crinigan gives Beaufort a “frontline starter” to compete in what is perhaps the toughest conference in NAIA.
The Sun Conference produced this season’s national champion in Florida’s Southeastern University and had five players chosen in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, tying the league’s record number of draftees.
“I’ll get a test every weekend, but I can’t wait to get started,” Crinigan said.
Good Works at Carthage: Huntley grad Jeremy Behnke, a defensive end who started every game last season as a junior at D-III Carthage College, was nominated this week for the Allstate/American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.
Behnke is one of 169 nominees nationwide for the team, which recognizes student-athletes who impact their teams, schools and communities.
Behnke, who is majoring in biology, chemistry and biochemistry, was named last season to the Academic All-District 6 Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America and is a three-time All-Academic honoree of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
His volunteer work with Kenosha area organizations includes Chesak Elementary School, St. Ben’s Church, the Shalom Center, Special Olympics of Wisconsin, Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, Feed My Starving Children and a local hospice.
• 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.