By Wes Moody, OU Athletics Communications Intern
They say good things come to those who wait. That has certainly been the case for fifth-year senior pitcher Drew Krittenbrink.
After compiling a 7-0 record, an ERA of 0.83 and a batting average of .403 as a senior in high school, the three-sport ace from Okarche, Okla. faced an unexpected challenge at Oklahoma.
“I wasn’t really sure coming out of high school where I wanted to go. I made the decision only about two or three weeks before school actually started so it was a pretty late decision,” Krittenbrink said. “My freshman year I got cut after the fall season.”
The time off was a trial for Krittenbrink, but one he learned and grew from.
“I learned a lot about maturity and living through adversity. I hadn’t been through much adversity through sports so that was a change. I just had to be patient and trust in God and know that whatever he had planned for me was best for me. I was just patiently waiting.”
On recommendation from the coaching staff, Krittenbrink stuck around and worked through that season, looking forward to having another chance to make the team. A self-proclaimed skinny kid coming out high school, Krittenbrink spent that year getting stronger and working on his craft.
“I came in at about 160 or 165 pounds. I was pretty skinny from high school basketball, so I put on about 15 pounds and tried to get my velocity up. I worked on my mechanics and just tried to come in polished for the next year. I came back in the fall and made the team and I’ve been here ever since.”
Despite making the team again, Krittenbrink saw little action the next two years. He pitched just 14.2 innings in four appearances during that span. Once again, his patience was being tested.
“In high school you are used to being the guy. Everyone here was the guy at their high school. It was a little bit of a change for me, not getting to play and just having to be patient and knowing that I was going to get my chance.”
In 2014, that chance finally came. Under new head coach Pete Hughes, the fifth-year senior got a fresh start and a clean slate.
“He hadn’t pitched much but he has been in some big games,” Hughes said. “I didn’t know his past, I just came here and watched him pitch and I evaluated him from day one. I didn’t look at a stat sheet or anything else. I saw a kid who likes to compete, never loses composure and comes to work and goes about his business every single day. For our young pitching staff to see a guy like him do his thing every day, that’s invaluable as a coach to have that.”
To this point in the season, Krittenbrink boasts a 2.73 earned run average and an opponent batting average of just .207 in 19 relief appearances. Hughes credits Krittenbrink’s maturity and attitude for his performance.
“He is such a team guy,” Hughes said. “He has such a larger perspective on life than some of these other kids. When he shows up to the park it’s all about, how is Oklahoma Baseball going to win today and how am I going to be part of that? He is always ready and prepared to help this team win because he is so caught up in the team and not himself. He is my kind of guy. He wants nothing but Oklahoma to win.”
The trust the new coaching staff has in Krittenbrink is a big reason the Sooners have been able to turn to him for crucial outs in tight spots time and time again this year.
“Confidence can do a lot of things for you,” Krittenbrink said. “The new coaching staff, they are never negative towards you. You can make a mistake as long as you make it being aggressive and hustling on the field. You know if you go out there and be aggressive and give your all for your teammates then they trust that you can get it done on the field.”
Krittenbrink’s journey through collegiate baseball; from being cut as a freshman to bullpen staple as a redshirt senior, has instilled in him the attitude, focus and perspective that makes him an ideal leader for the Sooners.
“I think I lead some of the younger guys,” Krittenbrink said. “When I was a freshman and sophomore I learned from the older guys and I heard their stories of times when things weren’t going so well for them, but they stuck it out and they started doing well and got to the positions they were in. I learned from them and it’s something that I hope I can pass on to our younger guys, to just keep your head down and keep working hard and good things will come.”
As a double major in finance and accounting, the veteran hurler sets the tone in the classroom as well. With a 56-game regular season schedule and post-season tournaments to follow, baseball can put a strain on even the most studious of athletes.
“You better be mature enough to understand the academic piece of being a student-athlete,” Hughes said. “You had better be organized and you have to be a competitor. I tell our guys that they have to compete in the classroom as well because it is difficult. What you do in the classroom carries over to the field and you are the same person. I love guys like Drew because I know that I am going to get a disciplined, focused and competitive product on the field because that’s who he is in the classroom.”
“It’s about discipline and getting your academics done before baseball so you can have a clear mind when you get out on the field.” Krittenbrink said.
Whether on the mound, at practice or in the classroom, Krittenbrink’s approach is something that any coach would love for his players to emulate.
“Since I have coached him, that’s all he has displayed out there is a love to compete, the ability to execute pitches and have success,” Hughes said. “He has been great for us.”
For Krittenbrink and his coaches, there is little doubt that the lessons he learned while waiting his turn have helped mold him into the player and person he is today, the kind of person that any team would be lucky to have.
Note: On April 15, Krittenbrink was recognized at OU's annual Scholar-Athlete Breakfast with the Athletics Council Achievement Award for a graduating student-athlete who overcame great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success, while participating in intercollegiate athletics.