At the last minute, Justin Yurchak was able to head home this summer to play baseball not far from his hometown of Clifton Park in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League with the Amsterdam Mohawks.
Not long after securing his release from Wake Forest University after a stellar freshman campaign, Yurchak won’t have to go too far from home for his next baseball stop, either.
Before his game Friday night with the Mohawks, Yurchak said he had committed the prior night to play for Binghamton University, a Division I competitor in the America East Conference. Binghamton, Yurchak said, was a school he was initially interested in out of high school. Before electing to continue his career at Binghamton, Yurchak also received interest from the University of Connecticut and St. John’s University.
Yurchak, 18, said he will sit out the 2016 season after transferring, but expects to be in the Bearcats’ lineup in 2017.
“It will be tough to just watch and not be able to play next year, but I knew the consequences when I transferred, and I still wanted to do it,” Yurchak said. “I’m looking forward to having fun and helping [Binghamton] any way I can.”
Yurchak, who graduated from Shenendehowa in 2014 after leading the Plainsmen to back-to-back Section II titles, should offer a lot to Binghamton, given his success during his freshman season playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Serving as Wake Forest’s everyday third baseman, Yurchak hit .313 with 13 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs in 160 at-bats across 49 games; Yurchak’s batting average and extra-base hits tally were both good for fifth-best on the team, while he had the fourth-most RBIs.
Mohawks team president Brian Spagnola said his summer league franchise offered help to Yurchak where it could, in terms of helping him to find a new school, but that little assistance was needed.
“He really didn’t need a lot of help,” Spagnola said. “His numbers speak for themselves.”
Yurchak said he viewed his experience playing for Wake Forest as an overall positive, and warmed up for his Mohawks game Friday wearing gear with the school’s logo on it.
“There were just some [things] there that I wasn’t looking for in a school, so I decided to head out,” Yurchak said. “It was a tough decision to leave there, but now I’m excited.”
Yurchak’s play has not suffered this summer, despite the uncertainty about his future. Originally scheduled to play for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats in Ontario, Canada, Yurchak landed a last-minute invite to Amsterdam and he was hitting .311 through his first 103 at-bats for the Mohawks.
While his power numbers are not as high as expected — through Friday’s action, he had one home run and two doubles — his .450 on-base percentage left head coach Keith Griffin with no complaints.
“He has tremendous hand-eye coordination,” said Griffin, who won five league championships in his first six seasons with the Mohawks. “He’s always swinging at strikes and drawing walks. I’m more of a first-pitch fastball guy than he is — every now and then, he’ll ambush one, but he mostly takes his first one — but that works for him. I don’t fuss with him a lot like I do with some of the other guys who don’t have a plan at the plate. He has a really good plan that works for him.”
Comforted with the knowledge of where he is headed this fall, Yurchak said he is excited to finish his season with the Mohawks while also getting the chance to spend his summer at home after spending all but three weeks from mid-August to mid-May away from Clifton Park.
The best part about being home for an extended stay? That’s easy, he said.
“Mom’s cooking,” Yurchak said.
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