By STEVE KRAH
Circumstances have caused Conner Tomasic to build his baseball and academic careers in unique ways.
The 2018 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., went to Purdue University in West Lafayette for two seasons (2019 and 2020), transferred to South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., for one (2021) and then came back to the Big Ten with Michigan State University (2022).
The right-handed pitcher has another year of college eligibility, but his next move might be as an independent pro.
This fall, Tomasic is a commuter student at Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind., while staying prepared for his diamond future. His major is Construction Engineering and Management Technology.
Tomasic entered college as a Kinesiology major. Having had Tommy John surgery in high school he had worked with plenty of physical therapists. A Biology course at Purdue made him decide that was not the path for him. He followed some teammates and went with construction.
“I like to see things in front of me and work with my hands,” says Tomasic. “It felt like a teamwork class. I felt comfortable with it.
“You learned how to deal with people and work a job site.
An associate degree was earned at South Suburban, a two-year school. But Tomasic also faced a bit of a curve. He had to switch his major at Michigan State to Psychology to stay eligible.
A 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, Tomasic took the mound 17 times (nine as a starter) for head coach Jake Boss Jr.’s MSU Spartans. He went 4-4 with a 5.40 earned run average, 41 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65 innings.
Because of the work load, Tomasic did not play summer ball, focusing on strength training. In July, he began traveling from Schererville, Ind., to PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., to work with Director of Player Development/Pitching Anthony Gomez. The two have known each other since Tomasic — who turned 23 in August — was an eighth or ninth grader and Gomez was coaching in northwest Indiana.
“We’ve always been close,” says Tomasic of Gomez. “It’s nice to work with someone who’s seen me grow up and develop.
“He knows my delivery almost as well as I do. He knows what I need at the end of the day.”
His PNW classes meet Monday through Thursday then Tomasic heads to central Indiana for workouts later that day or on Friday before returning to The Region.
Tomasic has three pitches — a four-seam fastball, slider and change-up.
His four-seamer was clocked at 92.9 mph this summer at 93 mph at South Suburban.
His slider — often thrown between 77 to 79 mph — has evolved.
“When I first started throwing it, it was a ‘gyro,’ says Tomasic of the pitch’s movement. “Now it’s getting mike more a ‘bullet’ slider. You can see the dot (as it rotates).
“My change-up, some people think it’s a splitter. It depends on what it’s doing that day. The majority of the time it’s going to sink and have arm-side run. But sometimes it dives straight down.”
Tomasic describes his delivery as “a little funky.”
The arm angle is about mid-three quarter overhand. But the delivery comes low.
“It’s something (opposing batters) don’t see that often,” says Tomasic. “My fastball plays up in the zone so it seems fast than it is.”
Tomasic sees determination and focus as two of his best athletic qualities.
“I’m a guy who know how to separate his sport from his daily life,” says Tomasic. “If I have a bad, I flush it. If I have a good day, I forget about it quick.
“You’ve got the day ahead of you in baseball.”
Born in Hammond and raised in Schererville, Conner is the oldest of Jerry and Dena Tomasic’s two children. Jennifer Tomasic (Lake Central Class of 2021) played basketball at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and Governors State University (University Park, Ill.).
Jerry Tomasic was born in Yugoslavia before that country split and moved to the U.S. around 2. He played baseball but not past junior high and went on to play basketball at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Dena Tomasic works at Cheers Food & Drink in Munster, Ind.
Conner played for the Dyer team that finished runner-up to eventual Little League World Series qualifier New Castle in 2012.
When he was ready for a travel ball transition outside northwest Indiana at 15 to 16 he was unable to play for Top Tier because of his injured elbow.
Tomasic shined as a two-way player at Lake Central and got to swing the bat for head coaches Mark Wasikowski and Greg Goff at Purdue and Steve Ruzich at South Suburban.
As a three-year letterwinner and four-time scholar-athlete at LC, he played for head coaches Jeff Sandor and Mike Swartzentruber.
The Indians won sectional titles in baseball and basketball in 2018 and Tomasic played a part while earning LCHS Pride, Hustle and Desire in both sports. He also earned 2018 Perfect Game All-American and All-Region Team honors.
He was the Roger Maris MVP in leading Team Serbia to the title in the 2018 International Baseball Challenge Tournament in Whiting, Ind.
In two seasons at Purdue, he hit .250 (3-of-12) with a triple in three runs batted and made one putout and five assists in the field. He pitched in 19 games (all in relief) with an 0-1 record, 4.30 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 1/3 innings.
At South Suburban, the pitcher/middle infielder was an National Junior College Athletic Association all-region selection as he hit .392 with 60 hits, including eighth home runs, three triples and 12 doubles with 49 RBIs, 28 walks and 15 stolen bases. On the bump, he was 6-1 with a 4.64 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings.
Tomasic played for the Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Larks and Midwest Collegiate League’s (now Northern League’s) Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summers of 2019 and 2020.
Along the way the focus became pitching rather than two-way player.
“I think I’m athletic enough,” says Tomasic. “I can pull it off.”