NIU baseball: Andrew Frankenreider provides closure

By Steve Shonder

Sophomore Andrew Frankenreider is racking up the saves this season as baseball’s closer after picking up just one save in his freshman campaign.

Frankenreider has six saves in the Huskies’ 17 wins this season and he’s been the go-to guy out of the bullpen. With an earned run average of 1.87 — limiting opposing batters to a .147 batting average — he’s been effective in just about every situation.

Those are the exact results Frankenreider said he expects from himself.

“It’s cool having that pressure on you,” Frankenreider said. “As a competitor, you want to be the guy with the ball at the end of the game. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good feeling when you end up getting the save or getting the win.”

The difference between last year and this season for Frankenreider hasn’t appeared on the stat sheet alone. He has also grown in confidence, which has been obvious to his teammates and coaches.

“Coming into last year, being a freshman, he had the stuff,” said junior catcher Johnny Zubek. “The stuff was always there, and he was working with his arm angle a little bit. But you could tell that he wasn’t as confident as he could be.

“This year, coming out and being the closer the way he’s handled it really well. You can just tell the way he steps on the mound that he knows that he’s going to get everybody out. It does a lot for the team when you’ve got a guy with confidence out there.”

Having a defined role has helped Frankenreider to focus on how he practices to attack hitters. He’s made sure to go after the first pitch strike and keep pounding away at the zone. The attacking style of pitching has helped him to strike out 30 batters, which is the third highest on the team and highest amongst the Huskies’ bullpen.

Even when his strikeout pitches aren’t working, he has more than enough faith in the fielders behind him to avoid any panic, which he said keeps him in the zone when he’s on the mound.

“It’s just about staying mentally focused throughout the game and visualizing what I need to get done and staying calm and relaxed out there,” Frankenreider said. “I know I’ve got the best defense in the MAC behind me, so I can just let the hitters put it in play, and they’ll take care of the rest.”

The confidence Frankenreider exudes on the mound is contagious for the Huskies, and there’s a good reason for it. Frankenreider has allowed just 12 runs, seven of which were earned, in his 33.2 innings pitched.

“That’s the guy who just makes you believe, ‘Let’s [get] him the ball with the lead, and we’re going to win,’” said head coach Mike Kunigonis. “Nobody ever panics when its a one-run game and Frank comes into the game because they know the game’s over, which gives our players confidence. It gives your defense confidence. It gives everybody around you confidence when you’re that type of guy.”

Frankenreider’s seven career saves are tied for sixth in school history. He may have a lot of work to do to catch up to NIU saves leader Matt German at 26, but there’s a good chance he will with the way he’s been pitching.