By STEVE KRAH
Gaining confidence and maturity have gone a long way in helping Austin Conway along his baseball journey, which has taken him into professional baseball as a right-handed pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization.
Conway played for head coach Terry Summers at Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 2013.
“He taught you how to carry yourself on the field and have a lot of composure,” says Conway of Summers. “I was very immature as a freshman. I had a lot of growing up to do. Having him around really helped.”
From Delta, where current Cowan High School head coach Ryan Conwell was an assistant, Conway took his talents to Terre Haute to play for Indiana State University. That’s where he got to work with Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs.
“I was very raw coming out of high school,” says Conway. “I lacked at knowing the game. (Hannahs) was hard on me. But he wanted to get the most out of me.
“He helped me with the mental side. He made me grow up and become a much better baseball player.
Conway learned that college baseball moves at a faster clip than high school.
“(Hannahs) would take me to the side and slow me down,” says Conway. “He gave me tough love when I needed that, too.”
Conway figured out how to understand and control situations. He would figure out what was working for him that day and what was not.
He found out that sometimes the situation calls for finesse.
“You can’t blow it by everybody,” says Conway, 23.
Tiegs came on board for Conway’s sophomore season.
“He helped me on the confidence side,” says Conway of Tiegs. “The first bullpen he saw, I threw was really good. He was very relatable, easy to trust and get close to.
“He was really big on the health and mechanics side of pitching.”
Tiegs, who pitched at Sauk Valley Community College and the College of Charleston, implemented a weighted ball program/velocity program that helped develop mechanics and velocity.
Conway took to it and saw results.
“I started pounding the zone more,” says Conway, who played four seasons for ISU (2014-17) with the 2016 season shortened to six appearances and 15 2/3 innings because of a shoulder injury. He received a medical redshirt for the year.
The righty came back in 2017 and was named second team all-Missouri Valley Conference after going 2-1 with 12 saves, a 2.97 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and 11 walks over 33 1/3 innings and 28 appearances (all in relief). When he was done at ISU, he ranked No. 2 on the career saves list with 20.
When Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft offers did not meet Conway’s standards, he though he was done with baseball.
But his coach with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League — Harvey Shapiro — made a call to friend Dan McDonnell, head coach at the University of Louisville.
McDonnell extended an invitation to Conway, who was approved for a fifth year of eligibility.
He also enrolled in Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law.
Juggling law school and baseball, Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018.
“It was incredible,” says Conway of his U of L experience. “It’s one of the best programs with one of the best head coaches in the country.
“(McDonnell) expects so much from his players and coaches. He’s very demanding.
“But he’ll respect you, if you respect him.”
Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams did not try to change much about the well-established Conway.
“He was more hands off with me as a fifth-year guy,” says Conway. “It was cool to see how he operated with the young guys.
“(With all pitchers,) he made sure the confidence was there.”
Conway was getting his four-seam fastball up to 95 mph with the Cardinals and regularly sat at 91 to 95. In pro ball, he was at 90 to 93. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, he also employs a “circle” change-up and “spiked” curveball (which looks more like a slurve).
The White Sox selected Conway in the 31st round of the 2018 draft and split his first pro campaign between the Arizona League White Sox and Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers.
Two other Indiana products — Logan Sowers and Michael McCormick — also played for Great Falls in 2018.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder was a combined 8-6 with two saves and a 3.00 ERA. In 46 games (all in relief) and 71 1/3 innings, he struck out 64 and walked 28.
Comparing NCAA Division I to rookie-level pro baseball, Conway saw parallels in talent. Though the minors is sprinkled with raw Latin players with loads of potential.
A double major in criminal justice and political science/legal studies at ISU, Conway completed his first year of law school at the U of L. He says his law studies will be on hold while he is pursuing his baseball career.
Born in Muncie, Conway played his early baseball around Albany, Ind., and Middletown, Ind. He was on the Shenandoah all-star team.
A football player, the only summer he really played travel baseball was with Muncie American League Post 19 Chiefs going into his senior year at Delta.
Austin’s father (Steve Conway) lives in Albany. His mother and stepfather (Brooke and James Runyon) are in Rockford, Ill. He has two stepbrothers (Jeff Dobbs and Josh Dunsmore) a half-brother (Dustin Runyon) and half-sister (Caitlin Runyon).
Using some of the exercises he learned from Tiegs at Indiana State, Austin plans to split time between Illinois and Indiana while working out and getting his arm ready to go to spring training in Arizona in early March.
Austin Conway pitched at Indiana State University from 2014-17. (Indiana State University Photo)
Austin Conway pitched at the University of Louisville in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)
Juggling law school and baseball, Delta High School graduate Austin Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)
Austin Conway, a graduate of Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, played one season at the University of Louisville and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)