“I felt like I did well this season, but I never really thought this kind of stuff was going to happen.”
That’s how John Munyon of St. Charles sums up his sophomore baseball campaign at Illinois Wesleyan University, which ended with a slew of accolades for the former St. Charles North standout, including Pitcher of the Year in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin and a first team selection by D3baseball.com in the NCAA Division III Central Region.
Appearing primarily out of the bullpen, the right-hander compiled an 8-2 record this season with four saves and a 2.33 ERA. Those are impressive numbers, but Munyon thought teammates Nick Mehn (6-2, 1.33) and Jeff Johnson (7-1, 1.71) were more likely to garner postseason awards such as conference pitcher of the year.
Munyon says he was “really, really surprised” when he learned he had received the CCIW honor.
“I was napping in my room and one of my good friends basically kicked down the door to tell me,” he said.
The D3 honor came just this week with Munyon already home for the summer.
“It’s an honor because there are a lot of good teams and players in our region,” he said.
Six Titans were named to the region’s first team, including Johnson, who was named the pitcher of the year.
Munyon really wasn’t hoping to be home this soon. He was planning on the season lasting a little longer. Illinois Wesleyan finished the season with a 33-14 record after being eliminated from the Division III Mideast Regional with a 10-6 loss Friday to Thomas More.
“It was a lot of fun, but it ended up being a little disappointing because we were really talented,“ Munyon said of the season. “I think everyone thought we had the ability to get to the College World Series.”
He says the Titans “got cold at the wrong time,” dropping three of their final four games, including a 12-1 loss to Augustana in the championship game of the CCIW tournament. That defeat came after Illinois Wesleyan had defeated the Vikings, 4-2, in the first meeting between the two teams in the double-elimination tourney. Munyon got the win in that contest by throwing five innings of scoreless relief, giving up just one hit and striking out five.
“I never realized how tough it was to relieve until this year,” Munyon said. “I’ve always been a starter. … Coming into pressure situations is pretty difficult.”
What was the secret to Munyon’s success this season?
“I’m not really sure,” he answers honestly. “I didn’t feel like I had changed a whole lot from last year. I got a few more opportunities.”
As a freshman, Munyon appeared in 15 games and had a 1-0 record with a 3.07 ERA.
“Obviously, as a freshman, any playing time is greatly accepted,” he said.
Munyon says having a year under his belt helped him prepare for this season.
“Basically, our pitching staff was pretty good this year,” he said. “It kind of motivated me to keep up with the other guys.”
Munyon was the team MVP in his senior season at North, hitting .443 and finishing with a 6-1 record on the mound. Meanwhile, he had narrowed his college search down to Illinois Wesleyan or Illinois. He saw one major drawback to going to Urbana-Champaign, however.
“I would not be able to play baseball, at least not on scholarship,” he said. “That was kind of the final factor. I did not want to stop playing baseball.”
He also was encouraged to attend Illinois Wesleyan by his best friend’s sister, Jenna Loynachan, who runs track for the Titans.
“She loved it,” Munyon said. “I’ve known her my whole life. I talked to her and she had nothing but good things to say.”
A business major, Munyon says he’s undecided about his post-college plans. In the near future, he plans on taking a couple of weeks off from baseball to allow his arm some time to rest, then he’ll begin some bullpen sessions to get ready for what hopefully will be an even more successful junior season.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes a weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest a column idea on area athletes who are competing in college, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.