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Lowell grad, St. Jospeh’s player Craig Austgen enjoying second Oilmen season

NWI Oilmen's Craig Austgen fields ball makes throwout first base  second inning against Michigan City during their game held

NWI Oilmen's Craig Austgen fields the ball and makes the throwout at first base in the second inning against Michigan City during their game held at Oil City Stadium in Whiting on Sunday July 7, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 20, 2013 6:45AM



WHITING — It didn’t take much coercion to get Craig Austgen to commit to a second summer with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.

“I liked the way they ran everything here,” said the Lowell graduate and current member of the baseball program at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer. “They take care of us. It’s a great facility and it’s close to home.”

Compared with the other teams in the MCL, the trip from Lowell to Whiting each gameday is the shortest one Austgen can make. That trip is broken up by a stop at Austgen Electric in Griffith, the family-owned company where Austgen is working for the summer.

“It’s a lot of mileage, but at least I’m working so I can pay for some of that. It’s definitely worth it to be able to play baseball every day.”

Austgen’s already played a hefty amount of baseball this year, beginning with the Pumas this spring. He started in 42 contests for St. Joseph’s, posting a .240 batting average with two home runs and 17 RBI. The Pumas posted a 30-20 record in 2013, qualifying for the Midwest Regional in NCAA’s Division II.

Back in Whiting this summer, Austgen has raised his average 26 points in the last two weeks, up to a .226 mark on the summer. He notched a hit for the fourth consecutive game with an RBI single in the first inning of the first game in Thursday’s doubleheader with the DuPage County Hounds.

Justin Huisman, who’s been Austgen’s manager for each of his summers with the Oilmen, said he’s noticed a maturity in Austgen’s game.

“I think he’s more consistent this summer; he’s doing a great job offensively and defensively,” said Huisman. “He’s not striking out as much and he’s not chasing quite as many baseballs out of the zone.”

Austgen just completed his junior season of college baseball, making him one of the older members of the Oilmen roster, primarily made up of college freshmen and sophomores.

“Last year there were more guys that were my age,” he said. “But everyone brings a ton of talent to the team, so it’s hard to tell the difference.”

Austgen has brought his share of veteran experience to the team—albeit in a quiet manner.

“I think he just leads by example,” said Huisman. “He’s kind of a quiet guy. But he just goes out there and takes care of business.”

But Austgen said he’s noticed one big similarity between the 2012 and 2013 Oilmen teams — their ability to put together a late-inning comeback.

“I definitely remember having a few walk-off games last season, so it’s kind of the same feeling this year,” he said. “It takes a while to get to know everybody but, once we do, it all just clicks.”

Austgen and the Oilmen continue their rigorous July schedule with three more games this weekend, all on the road against the Chicago Zephyrs — one on Friday and a doubleheader on Sunday.



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