Tuesday, April 15th

The Record

It didn’t take long for Willie Krajnik to figure it out. When he took the mound April 8 against Weehawken, the St. Mary junior knew his curveball was working.

What he didn’t know was that he was pitching the game of his life.

“I was cruising,” Krajnik said. “All I kept thinking was just keep throwing. I was in this good groove where I didn’t even realize how many strikeouts I had until after the game.”

That’s when one of Krajnik’s teammates told him he had struck out 20.

“I was like, ‘Oh, not bad,’ ” Krajnik said, “not realizing, at that moment, there’s only 21 outs in a game.”

Krajnik went 2-0 last week, including an upset win over state power Gloucester Catholic, and struck out 26 to earn The Record Male Athlete of the Week honor.

Krajnik is a creature of habit before every game.

“I have a lot of superstitions,” Krajnik said. “I’m a bit of a head case before the game. I get all amped up.”

But he’s not one of those pitchers who needs to be left alone before making a start.

“I’m a very outgoing guy,” Krajnik said. “I talk and fool around before games. But maybe a minute or two before games, I just need a minute to myself.”

Krajnik knows a thing or two about pressure. He will quarterback the Gaels’ football team in the fall, and there’s some similarities between pitchers and quarterbacks.

“You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself, in your teammates,” Krajnik said. “And I have a lot of confidence in my baseball team this year. They always have my back. I just do my thing for them and I have all the confidence in the world.”

Also nominated: Jaleel Felton of Pascack Valley and Stephen Pena of Ridgefield Park for track and field; Nick Champino of Wood-Ridge for baseball; Chris Nugent of Fair Lawn for volleyball.