CINCINNATI — The Big East baseball tournament returns Thursday to Prasco Park in Mason. Xavier will try to raise the trophy for the first time since 2017. While catcher Jerry Huntzinger has not been with the Musketeers for long, he is making his impact felt all over the field.
"You can do whatever you want, as long as you are capable of doing it," Huntzinger said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to get to the next level."
Huntzinger played most of his collegiate career with conference rival Seton Hall. Despite his "All-Big East" status, he did not hear his name called in the MLB Draft.
“After last year, when the draft didn’t work out, I was going to figure out where I was going to go,” Huntzinger said.
Enter Xavier and head coach Billy O'Conner.
“A guy we admired from across the way, once [Huntzinger] became available in the transfer portal, we knew he was a guy we were going to pursue,” O'Conner said.
O’Conner offered Huntzinger an opportunity few Division 1 catchers get: a chance to pitch.
"I haven't pitched since I was 12 years old. Little League? I haven't pitched in 10 years," Huntzinger said.
Now, he's back on the mound as Xavier's closer. O'Conner said Huntzinger is the first collegiate player he's coached to both catch and pitch.
"We’ve had some guys try it in the fall, but nobody who has ever been able to do those two," O'Conner said.
"You don’t see catchers take their gear off in the bottom of the eighth inning and then go in and close out a game," said pitcher Jack Lynch, Huntzinger's teammate.
What started as an experiment is now a need for the Musketeers. Huntzinger leads the team in saves.
"I wish I didn’t catch 17 innings sometimes and then go pitch, but you have to do what’s best for the team sometimes," Huntzinger said. “If I get hit up, I get hit up — I’m really not supposed to be out there, but now, if you look at it, I guess I am supposed to be out there."
Huntzinger has spent the season improving all aspects of his game. He's second on the squad in stolen bases and home runs. He's dedicating his final ride to one goal.
“Make sure you get picked this year,” Huntzinger said.
Whatever it takes.