To say C.J. Winpigler was rusty when he took to the pitcher’s mound Monday night in the seventh inning of a one-run game against Mount Airy Post 191 would be an understatement.
Winpigler, who possess an above-average fastball and decent curveball, threw his first bullpen session for the FSK Post 11 American Legion baseball team on Saturday. Before stepping into that save situation at McCurdy Field, however, Winpigler hadn’t pitched since 2011.
“This was my first inning of actual baseball since last summer,” Winpigler said. “I felt great. I was locating my fastball perfectly. It’ll take time to get back into it, but once I do, here’s hoping all goes well.”
Winpigler pitched a relatively harmless ninth. He walked Mount Airy’s No. 9 hitter, but nailed down his first save of the season and helped Post 11 improve to 6-1 with a 4-3 victory.
A 2011 graduate of Tuscarora High School, Winpigler is used to winning. Since he joined the team, Post 11 hasn’t lost. He missed the first two games of the season because he was with the baseball team at Marietta College, which won the NCAA Division III World Series.
Marietta is a Division III powerhouse. The Ohio school has won six national titles, including back-to-back championships in 2011-12. This year, Marietta downed Wheaton (Ill.), 7-2, in the final game of the College World Series after the Pioneers faced elimination in both the Regional and CWS brackets.
“That was the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” Winpigler said. “The team camaraderie and coaching styles, it’s amazing. It’s been the same way for 60 years. It’s the same thing day-in and day-out. That’s our big thing is tradition. It’s an amazing program and I couldn’t ask for a better college experience.”
The powerful right-handed hitter is a catcher and pitcher at Marietta, though he didn’t pitch for the Pioneers this season, and he plays third base for FSK Post 11. In 10 games and five starts for Marietta, Winpigler batted .158 with a double, a run and an RBI.
In Monday’s game, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Winpigler reached base three times on two singles and a walk. He said he sometimes still feels the rush of adrenaline he received when Marietta won the national title.
“It was the greatest experience of my life so far. Every once in a while, I’ll still get that rush like, ‘Wow, we did that,’” said Winpigler, who also won a district championship in little league and a Babe Ruth title when he was 14. “It was something amazing. It still hasn’t sunk in. Not until we get that ring in the fall. That’s when it will really kick in.”
A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, Winpigler has been playing baseball since he was 4 and said he prefers hitting against hard-throwing pitchers.
“I love hitting,” he said. “That’s always been my thing is hitting. I’d rather see 85 [miles per hour] every day of the week. Slow pitching has never been my thing. The faster it comes in, the harder it goes out.”
FSK coach Tom Long has been working with Winpigler in some capacity for four seasons and trusts his bat. In his first game this summer with the Legion team, Winpigler batted third and did so again Monday. He has three hits, four RBI, four walks and he hasn’t struck out so far.
“It was exciting for him and us following him [in the College World Series],” Long said. “He’s a great kid and we’re so proud of him.”
With FSK Post 11 this season, he said he and his teammates have a positive chemistry despite spending the spring playing on various teams.
“We’re a very young team,” Winpigler said. “The majority of us have played with each other long enough and know each other’s style of play. We’re able to click back in once the Legion season starts and hopefully we’ll continue clicking.”