Krupa’s perseverance nets him Preston Walker MVP award
It didn’t take long after Iowa Western Community College’s 17-5 win over Miami Dade College on Friday night for the chants to begin.
The cheers for Alex Krupa became louder as more of the crowd at Suplizio Field joined in, and if you threw a gold helmet on him, he’d be a ringer for Rudy. He even battled through adversity like the Notre Dame football player.
In the course of a year, the freshman went from staring at a steep learning curve to the Preston Walker Most Valuable Player at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Iowa Western outfielder did it all during the tournament, including cementing his place as fan favorite, as he led the Reivers to their third NJCAA Division I baseball national championship in five years. He hit for average, batting .600, a mark only two of his teammates came close to. He tore up the base paths with eight stolen bases and nine runs, both tournament highs.
Throw in eight RBI, another category Krupa led, and the freshman had an outstanding tournament.
Krupa also won the Marucci Elite Hitter Award and earned a spot on the 2014 JUCO All-Tournament team.
“It feels amazing,” Krupa said. “I feel like anyone on our team could have won these awards. I’m glad I had my team behind me when I was receiving them.”
In the championship game, Krupa was 4 for 5 with four RBI and two runs. He also drew two walks.
Although Krupa isn’t known for being emotional on the field, he said he tries to fire up his team with his play.
“I’m a quiet guy and I don’t really show a lot of emotion until I’m in the dugout where a lot of people see me,” Krupa said. “I can spark the team a little bit and I got a little speed that can get the dugout hyped up, but that’s basically it. I just do my job out there.”
Although he had a stellar stretch of play at JUCO, the game wasn’t always as kind to Krupa.
Early in the season, he struggled adjusting to life at a major junior college baseball program.
Then something clicked, even if Krupa isn’t quite sure what it was.
“I’d think a quarter into the season is when I finally got it,” Krupa said. “You know, I was nervous coming to a big-time program like this, and I don’t think my confidence set in until a quarter into the season.”
For Reivers coach Marc Rardin, Krupa’s adjustment period is a big reason the outfielder deserves all the accolades.
“He’s still learning the game and he had just so much to learn when he came in,” Rardin said. “That’s what’s going to make him dangerous in the future. This fall, it was a hard fall for him. He got here and the game was really fast for him. But through the togetherness of our team, obviously his own drive and some of our coaching, the game started to slow down a bit for him. He’s dangerous.”
Iowa Western dominated on its way to winning the title and also cleaned up in the awards, winning both the best pitcher and the defensive player awards.
The battle for the top pitcher came down to the Reivers’ Erik Swanson and Kevin Elder.
In the end, it was Swanson who won out.
His seven-inning performance, where the sophomore struck out nine batters and limited Midland to only four hits in a 9-0 win, turned out to be the most memorable.
“He’s grown up and down a lot to make himself a better player,” Rardin said. “He handled himself really well the other night, and I really think it was the most dominant performance of the tournament.”
Jacob Sheldon-Collins, the Australian native and starting shortstop for Iowa Western, was selected as the best defensive player at JUCO.
After a tournament that was solid but not flashy, Sheldon-Collins started two double plays in the championship game. In the ninth inning, Sheldon-Collins doubled off a runner after deflecting a line drive with his glove and catching the ball bare-handed.