Steven Kaenzig suffered an early-season hip injury last spring, which made him miss some time on the baseball diamond.
But the Cedar Creek High School right-handed pitcher worked hard to quickly get back into action and was still able to put together an impressive junior campaign.
“The amount of effort he put into getting back was incredible,” Cedar Creek coach Ryan Flannery said. “The coaches on our staff were blown away by that. He wasn’t even 100% yet, but he gave it his all and overcame adversity. That is really all we ask.”
Earlier this month, Kaenzig signed a national letter of intent to continue playing baseball at NCAA Division I Hofstra University. The senior received a partial academic and athletic scholarship.
Last season, the Pride finished 18-31-1 (10-14 in the Colonial Athletic Association) under eight-year head coach John Russo.
“Well, when I went to visit, I loved the coaches, and I loved the campus,” said Kaenzig, who also plays shortstop for the Pirates. “I just felt like I would fit in well there. It was such a good environment.”
Kaenzig’s goal is to be ready to play as soon as possible at Hofstra.
“It’s definitely going to be tough, but I’m willing to take it on,” Kaenzig said. “I think I have the work ethic to handle it. I want to keep working to get better, not just as a baseball player but as a person (too). I want to work to get better every day.”
Last season, the Pirates finished 16-10 (12-7 in the Cape-Atlantic League) and advanced to the South Jersey Group II semifinals, losing 2-1 to eventual champion West Deptford.
Cedar Creek went 7-5 in the CAL National Division, including a 9-2 victory over division champion Mainland Regional on May 6.
In 25 1/3 innings, Kaenzig struck out 23, allowed two earned runs, walked nine and posted a 0.56 ERA. The senior had five RBIs and scored three runs in nine games.
“Steve means a lot to our team with both a strong leadership role and an example in the classroom,” Flannery said. “He works his tail off. He is one of those kids that is easy to root for. He does everything you ask of him. He always goes above and beyond.”
Cedar Creek, which finished 7-12 in 2017, lost just one player to graduation and returned nine seniors. The Pirates anticipate added success this season.
“We are all pumped,” Kaenzig said. “We are all excited and expect big things.”
Kaenzig started in the sectional semifinals, striking out three, giving two hits and allowing just one run in 5 2/3 innings. But West Deptford won on a walk-off wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning.
That loss is fuel for the 2020 season.
“We are going to go as far as our arms take us, and we can count on Steve every time he goes on the mound,” Flannery said. “We can always expect a quality start from him. He is a great kid to have.”