Oakton's Nowak shining for Owls on way to Miami
A year from now, Brandon Nowak will have just gone through a winter without snow and wind chill.
Nowak, a sophomore left-handed pitcher for Oakton Community College, already has his ticket punched for next season, having signed to join the University of Miami baseball program.
Until then, Nowak has some great moments likely on the way in his final season as an Owl.
Nowak started this season with a 1.23 earned-run average and 11 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings over his first four appearances, according to statistics on www.njcaa.org. That is on top of his great first season in college ball. Last season, the Jefferson Park native and Notre Dame High School graduate was named the Illinois Skyway College Conference Pitcher of the Year after going 8-1 overall and 4-0 in ISCC play. He also had a 2.16 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 25 innings in league games.
It is quite a resume for a player who only started focusing on pitching in his sophomore year of high school.
“In grade school, I didn't really pitch a lot because I didn't throw hard,” Nowak told the North Cook News. “But then come high school, it was more of being a funky lefty that like got me more time. Then just throughout high school, I stuck with it and then come college is when ... I really made that jump.”
During his senior season of high school, he had a 1.70 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 33 innings, according to www.hometeamsonline.com.
Weightlifting has been a big key to his success, Nowak said. A regimen of lifting five times a week has improved his stamina and the strength needed for his pitching training.
“I think that was the main thing that helped me get to where I am now,” he said.
Tweaks with his mechanics also helped, getting his pitches more into the strike zone now than in high school, Nowak said.
A big draw to pitching for Nowak is control of the game's pace, since he likes to work fast, he said.
“I try to get into a rhythm right out of the gate, and once I get into that rhythm, I try not to mess anything up,” Nowak said.
Nowak said he received a lot of interest from four-year schools after his first year at Oakton, receiving offers from Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Nebraska and Missouri. But the history and recent success of the Miami program — four national titles as well as two straight trips to the College World Series — and his connection with the Hurricanes coaching staff won out.
“I felt really comfortable with the coaches,” Nowak said. “The coaches are a big part. Like, the pitching coach (J.D. Arteaga), like, he's just a down-to-Earth guy, and I just felt comfortable pitching for him next year.”
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