WCC baseball adds to honors
SUGAR GROVE—Waubonsee Community College’s record-setting baseball season may have come to a halt in the finals of the Region IV Division III Tournament, but the honors for the Chiefs continue to roll in. The Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) and the NJCAA’s Region IV Committee recognized nine members of the Chiefs’ program for their outstanding performances this past spring.
Shortstop Nate Strusz, designated hitter Cory Walden and pitcher Dan Okapal were each named All-ISCC First Team, with Strusz tabbed as the league’s Most Valuable Player. Outfielder Nolan Craig, second baseman Tony Gaffino, pitcher Steve Lewis, first baseman Brandon Lawrence and third baseman Tim Brann were each chosen to the All-ISCC Second Team. Long-time head coach Dave Randall was selected the ISCC’s Coach of the Year after leading the Chiefs to the league championship for the second straight season. In addition, Strusz, Walden, Okapal, Craig, Lewis, Lawrence and Brann were all selected to the NJCAA All-Region IV Division III First Team.
Strusz, a slick fielding shortstop from Aurora West High School, batted .395 in ISCC contests in helping lead the Chiefs to a 10-4 league mark.
Walden, a sophomore from Aurora West High School, batted .445 in conference games. The slugger had a record-setting spring as the Chiefs’ clean-up hitter, finishing second nationally in home runs (12) and runs batted in (67), both new single-season Waubonsee records. Walden ended the season with a .422 batting average to place him 20th among NJCAA Division III hitters. He smacked 65 hits, tying him for fifth nationally in that category.
Okapal, a right-handed pitcher from Aurora East High School, went 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in ISCC action. Overall on the season, the 6’4” sophomore compiled a 6-2 record to go along with a 2.67 ERA, striking out 73 and walking only 9 in 70 and two-thirds innings pitched.
Craig hit .359 in ISCC contests to help lead the Chiefs to the title. On the season, the Hinckley-Big Rock alumnus batted .374 with 58 hits, 42 runs scored and 31 driven in. The left-handed hitting outfielder also stole 23 bases in 28 tries, drew 23 walks and had a .470 on-base percentage.
Gaffino batted .280 in league action, and helped anchor the Chiefs’ record-setting defense. The Aurora West High School graduate made only five errors in 191 chances at second base, registering 84 putouts and 102 assists.
Lewis, from Chicago’s St. Laurence High School, went 3-1 on the hill against conference competition after having elbow surgery in 2010. Overall the sophomore finished 7-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 62 innings pitched with five complete games. The seven wins the right-hander posted tied him for sixth among NJCAA Division III hurlers.