Varsity Baseball | August 5, 2021

Lake Central grad Conner Tomasic returns to Big Ten with Michigan State commitment

By: Mike Clark, nwitimes.com

If Conner Tomasic had a time machine, would he try a do-over for the beginning of his college baseball career?

Yep, in a heartbeat.

Tomasic headed to Purdue after starring at Lake Central and spent the 2019 season and the COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign in West Lafayette, appearing in 23 games as a pitcher and infielder.

But it wasn’t a good fit, so Tomasic entered the transfer portal. He wound up close to home this spring and had a breakout season at South Suburban College. Now, he’s headed back to the Big Ten after committing to Michigan State.

It’s a happy ending to a story that could have wound up in a bad place.

“Mentally, the hardest thing for me to do in that process was finally making the decision to leave Purdue,” Tomasic said Wednesday. “Signing the transfer papers and going into the unknown.”

With all college athletes getting an extra season of eligibility because of the pandemic, scholarship money was scarce last year. And recruiting was shut down anyway.

Tomasic went to South Suburban without any promise of financial aid.

But the Bulldogs — under longtime coach Steve Ruzich, who has sent plenty of players to Division I and a few to the majors — felt like the right fit.

“The biggest thing COVID taught me is everybody’s journey is different,” Tomasic said. “There’s absolutely no shame going JUCO.”

In fact, it’s often a better choice for high school grads.

“If I could have told my 16-year-old self, I would have gone to a JUCO right off the bat,” he said. “I would have gone there at least a year.”

The Bulldogs play a nationally competitive schedule, and this season faced the best junior college team in the country, Wabash Valley from downstate Illinois. It was good preparation for going back to Division I.

And Tomasic thrived as a two-way standout for the Bulldogs, slashing .392/.515/.667 as a second baseman and pitcher with eight homers and 29 RBIs. He also went 6-1 with 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings along with a 4.64 ERA.

He reached out to Michigan State coaches at the beginning of the spring and their interest picked up about halfway through the season. They came to watch him throw about a month ago, offered a scholarship and he didn’t have a hard time making a decision.

“I had the same feeling, almost like South Sub,” Tomasic said. “It was almost everything I wanted, a perfect fit. Obviously, I’m extremely happy to be back in the Big Ten, not too far from home.”

It’s a little surreal to go from essentially walking on to a junior college program a year ago to getting ready to join a Power Five program in a few weeks.

But the time at South Suburban was a highlight of Tomasic’s baseball journey. “Probably the biggest development period of my career,” he said.

“Being 21 there, I was the oldest guy. I learned about being more of a captain.”

And that there are more ways than one to get where you belong in your baseball career.

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