Winning a national junior college championship last season encouraged Alex Crinigan to duplicate that feeling.
So far this season, he’s found the perfect baseball fit at NCAA Division III Concordia Chicago.
After pitching Oakton Community College to the NJCAA Division III title and winning national pitcher of the year honors in 2018, Crinigan is competing at a high level again.
“After we won last season, I got that feeling that I wanted to go somewhere and win another one,” he said. “It makes the game a lot more fun.”
The Hampshire graduate is 3-0 this season with a 1.88 ERA for Concordia (15-1), which was ranked No. 1 nationally last week by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a first in school history.
“It’s a fun thing to be a part of,” said Crinigan, who has helped the team to 15 wins in a row. “No matter who goes out on the mound – whether it’s one of the five starters or anyone out of the bullpen – it’s automatic lights out.”
A season after leading the nation in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched at Oakton, Crinigan said he is “just picking up where I left off.”
In 24 innings, he has struck out 26 and walked only two. Opposing hitters have a .226 average against him.
The Concordia offense is scoring 8.1 runs a game to support its pitching staff, which has a 2.42 team ERA, the fourth-best in the nation.
Crinigan credits Concordia coach Mike Stawski with helping he team’s pitchers shine.
“We don’t have the same set rotation each week,” he said. “He matches us up where he thinks we’re going to be the most successful, and you go out and do your job. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, and I’ve only been here three months.”
Crinigan spent the fall semester at NAIA South Carolina-Beaufort before realizing it wasn’t the right fit.
He never had spoken to Stawski but knew of Concordia because of two former summer league teammates who played for the Cougars.
“This was the best option for me being close to home, continuing a winning tradition and putting my best foot forward,” he said.
In his fourth year as head coach, Stawski has led Concordia to the NCAA regionals and a Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference title in the previous three seasons. The past two seasons, Concordia has advanced to the D-III World Series.
The goal is to make three trips in a row, Crinigan said.
“The way we’re playing right now," he said, "we look like the team to beat.”
Miller masters Wake: McHenry West grad Bobby Miller, a sophomore pitcher for Louisville, pitched seven no-hit innings Sunday for his first win of the season, a 5-4 victory against Wake Forest.
Miller struck out eight while throwing 109 pitches in his second start of the season. In his 10 appearances this season, Miller has struck out 36 batters in 26 1/3 innings while walking only nine. Miller has the second-most strikeouts of any pitcher for the Cardinals (23-6), who are ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Fast start for Reiser: University of Illinois middle distance runner Jesse Reiser (McHenry West) won the 1,500-meter run last weekend at the outdoor track and field season-opening Ole Miss Classic in Oxford, Mississippi.
Reiser won the event in 3:49.47, almost two seconds faster than his closest competitor. Reiser also placed fourth in the 800 (1:53.79).
St. John’s standout: Senior catcher Wyatt Mascarella (Cary-Grove) is leading the St. John’s University baseball team with a .320 batting average and 15 RBIs this season. Mascarella also has a team-best 24 hits while starting 23 times for the Red Storm (14-10).
Mascarella has seven multihit games for St. John’s, including five in the past nine games. Over that nine-game span, Mascarella is hitting .448 with nine RBIs.
Nystrom hired at John Carroll: Prairie Ridge grad Drew Nystrom, a former offensive lineman at Bowling Green, has been hired as offensive line coach and run game coordinator at NCAA Division III John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland.
Nystrom spent the past five years as offensive coordinator at the University of Dubuque in Iowa.
Augie golf ranked: D-III Augustana College’s women’s golf program, which includes Crystal Lake Central grad Rylie Schurter, has earned the first regional ranking from GolfStat.com in school history.
In advance of next weekend’s spring season opener, the Vikings are ninth in Region 3. The team won three of its nine fall tournaments.
Schurter posted an 83.5 average during the fall season and placed second as an individual in both the Carl Sandburg and Knox invitationals. Schurter is 56th in the GolfStat individual region rankings.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.