Will Mack learned something about his athletic future as Prairie Ridge advanced in the IHSA Class 4A Baseball State Tournament last June.
“I realized toward the end of last year, when we were facing some of the top pitchers in the state and I was keeping up, that I could do this [at the next level],” Mack said.
The Wolves senior left fielder committed to Northern Illinois University on Thursday where he will play on scholarship for the NCAA Division I Huskies.
“Coach [Ed] Mathey seems like a great guy,” Mack said. “The coaching staff is awesome. I went over there for a day, had lunch with the coaches and watched a little bit of practice.”
Also at the lunch was former Crystal Lake Central player Pat Minogue, who starts for the Huskies in center field. Mack spoke with former Prairie Ridge pitcher Andy Deain, who later suffered a broken finger that ended his season. Mack said Deain, a senior, was granted a medical red-shirt that he planned to use next year, making the former Wolves teammates for one season.
Mack was looking at D-I Eastern Kentucky and Oakton Community College. Mack will be the second Prairie Ridge player this season to sign with a D-I school. Catcher Nolan Jacoby signed with Oakland (Mich.) in November. Shortstop Dan Rowe will play at Eastern Illinois University, but will attend the school on an academic scholarship his first year.
“[College coaches] like Will’s athletic ability and his leadership,” Prairie Ridge coach David Haskins said.
“He can hit for power and for average. Right now he’s our No. 4 hitter protecting Nolan. The No. 1 thing we need to work on with Will is his arm strength.”
There was a time in Mack’s career when baseball was not his favorite sport.
“I wasn’t that serious about it when I was younger,” he said. “When I was 11 and 12, I played hockey.”
Mack came back to baseball when he was 13 with the Sage Sting. Later, he switched to the McHenry County Hurricanes. He played with the Hurricanes’ 17U team last summer.
Joe Stevenson is a reporter for Shaw Newspapers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.