Baseball: St. Laurence’s Mike Kornacker the Beggars Pizza/SouthtownStar 2013 Baseball Player of the Year
Mike Kornacker had a season that will be difficult to duplicate.
On the mound the St. Laurence right-hander was 7-1 — including two perfect games — with a 0.97 ERA. Five of his seven wins were shutouts.
On offense, he hit .421 with 11 doubles, two triples, five homers, 36 RBI and 20 stolen bases.
That’s a monster season, for sure. The good news for Kornacker and St. Laurence is that he’ll get a chance to try to duplicate those gaudy stats next season when he’s a senior.
Not only that, he’ll also get a chance to repeat one more honor: The Viking standout is the Beggars Pizza/SouthtownStar 2013 Baseball Player of the Year.
“I’m very honored,” said Kornacker, a Lemont resident who plays second base when he’s not pitching. “I think we play the best competition in the state with our schedule; every game in the Catholic Blue is tremendous. I really appreciate this.”
Kornacker had a season full of memorable moments. When asked what stood out most, he omitted his perfect games against St. Joseph and Lake View.
“Probably the game against Lincoln-Way North and the St. Rita game we won 5-4,” he said. “Also, when we beat Brother Rice to assure us of winning the Catholic League Blue outright.”
Kornacker was dominant during a 14-0 win over then-No. 1 Lincoln-Way North, scattering four hits, striking out six and driving in a run. During the 5-4 extra-inning win over rival St. Rita, he pitched eight innings and struck out five.
As dependable as Kornacker’s right arm was to the Vikings’ cause, his bat was of equal importance situated in the No. 3 hole of the order.
“Mike had a tremendous season all the way around,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said. “He did it all. With the bat, pitching and fielding. He can do a lot of things on the baseball field at a level only a few other players can. He’s a hard worker and a great teammate.”
Despite the rigors of pitching and playing the field, Kornacker has remained in excellent physical condition.
He credits the St. Laurence coaching staff and a resilient arm for remaining pain-free.
“Usually, I’m able to play the field after I pitch,” he said. “The coaches watch my arm and constantly ask how it feels. They really take care of their players. My arm’s been fine. I’ve been doing both as long as I can remember.”
That’s why many of the college programs that were recruiting him were willing to allow him to pitch and play the field — a rarity at the Division I level.
In the end, Kornacker thought Purdue, which will allow him to log double duty, was the right fit.
“I felt most comfortable at Purdue,” Kornacker said. “I really like the school and the coaches.”
Kornacker has been pitching and playing a position as long as he can remember — since he started playing with the Illinois Sparks at age 9.
And if honing his all-around skills on the mound, plate and field are consuming isn’t enough, he’s remained committed to St. Laurence’s basketball team.
“I enjoy playing basketball and it keeps me in shape,” he said. “The Purdue coaches encourage me to play both sports. Baseball is a long season. It’s nice to get away for a little bit and focus on something else.”
That doesn’t mean he neglects baseball entirely during hoops season. He’ll still spend time in the weight room and do some light hitting and throwing. He’s just not taking as many swings as he is jump shots.
The one item missing from Kornacker’s resume is a trip to the state finals. The Vikings have won the heralded Catholic League Blue title two of the past three years, but they’ve been eliminated from the postseason in the sectional semifinals three consecutive seasons.
Kornacker aims on changing that in 2014.
“One of the greatest things you can win in high school is the Catholic League Blue,” he said. “It’s always our top goal. But I want to make it to state. That’s the top goal for next season.”