710 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

It was a tough set of circumstances the day Franklin pitcher Evan Kruczynski needed to leave midway through his senior season to enroll at East Carolina, where he was beginning his career as a Division I college baseball player in 2013.

It was a move that worked out -- and maybe not just for Kruczynski. After all, the Sabers won 11 straight games immediately following their ace's departure and wound up playing for the sectional title. 

"(Teammates) John Salfer and Tyler Gentz, they sent me a text letting me know they didn't need me anymore," Kruczynski said with a laugh. "I was following along the whole way."

Kruczynski eventually emerged into an ace in his new uniform, as well, and on June 13, he became the second player from the Franklin High School to get drafted by a Major League Baseball team, selected in the ninth round of the draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. The senior left-handed pitcher from ECU was taken 274th overall.

"I didn't talk to them at all in the fall and not much in the spring," the 6-5, 215-pound lefty said. "The morning of Day 2 of the draft, I got a text from TC Calhoun, their area scout, and he told me to watch for my name. ... It was the greatest feeling in the world."

Overcoming a bad break

The 2013 FHS grad finished the year 4-3 at East Carolina with a 4.47 ERA, though extenuating circumstances may have inflated that number. Kruczynski was struck by a comebacker in March that broke his leg, and after returning to the mound, he said he stretched himself too rapidly to get back into dominant form.

"It did kill my spirits when I found out it was broken," he said. "In college baseball, 6 to 8 weeks is a big chunk of the season. I stayed positive with it. I didn't want other teammates see me be negative and bring them down with me. But that's when our season started to spiral a little bit. When I got back, we were 0-10 in conference."

East Carolina, which went to the NCAA Super Regional last year thanks in large part to Kruczynski's work on the mound, wasn't down for the count, however. The Pirates bounced back to reach the American Athletic Conference title game, where Houston kept ECU from getting back into the NCAA tourney.

"He had incredible work ethic," said Franklin coach Jim Hughes. "He'd be one of the first guys there, one of the last to leave, always working on his fundamentals. He worked really hard on his move to first base and now he's got an outstanding move to first base, one of the best in Division 1."

He joins Mike Goetz (2002), who went on to lead the nation in hitting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, as Franklin draftees. Jason Herrick (1991) signed a free-agent contract with the California Angels and spent some years in the minor leagues.

Super performance

Kruczynski enjoyed an excellent junior season at ECU, going 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 116 2/3 innings, with 95 strikeouts and 27 walks. That included a win over Texas Tech when East Carolina reached the best-of-3 Super Regional, though ECU fell in the subsequent two games and missed becoming the first ECU team to reach the College World Series.

"Texas Tech is one of the most hostile environments in college baseball," Kruczynski said. "Coming in from the preseason, not ranked, we prided ourselves on being blue collar. We didn't act like we were too small or that they were the No. 5 team nationally. We just played our game. ... It was heartbreaking, but it was a weekend I'll never forget for the rest of my life."

The 2016 performance landed him third-team All America honors from D1Baseball.com and netted preseason American Athletic Conference Co-Pitcher-of-the-Year and preseason First-Team All-AAC.

Hughes pointed out that Kruczynski still has room on his frame to add weight, and though his velocity hasn't quite reached the 90s consistently, he has command of four pitches, including a curveball and changeup.

"He worked for everything he got," Hughes said. "He's one of the few kids I had as a captain as a junior year."

 

Franklin roots

Kruczynski was a member of the 2010 and 2011 state-championship baseball teams at Franklin, the last teams to win the summer title at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point before a move of the tournament to Kapco Park in Mequon. He was good enough defensively to play first base as a freshman and appeared in the state tournament in that capacity in 2010.

"Coach Hughes was a big reason why I was going to play Division I baseball," Kruczynski said. "He saw the talent in me my freshman year and let me pitch all four years."

He pitched six innings in the state semifinal of his sophomore season, allowing an earned run to Marquette in an eventual 6-5 win. The Sabers won that game in extra innings on Joel Kornhoff's RBI single in the eighth, then won the following game against West Bend West in a 5-4 nail-biter.

More importantly, Kruczynski pitched his team past powerful Oak Creek in the sectional final to reach state. The 2010 and 2011 teams were the first state champs in FHS history.

"He was such a team guy that he'd tell me when he pitched, he didn't want to hit and wanted to concentrate on his pitching and thought that would help his team than him trying to get 1 or 2 hits a game," Hughes said. "He also told me it would give me a chance to play another kid, too."

Kruczynski was named first-team All Conference in the Greater Metro as a senior in 2013 even though he only pitched part of the season before departing for East Carolina. He was never named to the Now Newspapers All-Suburban team, earning High Honorable Mention as a junior.

Before he departed, he was the winning pitcher in Hughes's 800th career victory.

"I wouldn't rule him out," Hughes said. "He's got all the things you need to be successful."

He signed his contract in Florida and will report to Class A Peoria, where he expects to make regular starts for the remainder of the 2017 season.

710 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE