Central’s Ludwig finishes what he startsNaperville Central starting pitcher Dan Ludwig pitched four complete innings against Fremd on Saturday, leaving the game with the score tied a one. Mar 26, 2011. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 24, 2011 2:46PM
He knows nothing else. That’s what happens when you win a regional final and start a sectional final, both as a sophomore.
So while entrenched in a tie ballgame late last month against Hinsdale Central, with the program facing the prospect of being one-and-done in the postseason for the first time since 2008, one could excuse Naperville Central left-hander Dan Ludwig for not batting an eye.
With the confidence that characterizes him as much as his easy-going personality, Ludwig left a pair of runners stranded in back-to-back innings to keep the game tied, allowing his teammates to break it open with a five-run sixth.
Ludwig was exceptional in 2011 as a senior, going 8-2 with a 1.36 ERA while fanning 97 in 67 innings and is the Naperville Sun’s 2011 Prep Baseball Player of the Year.
The biggest holdover from the Naperville Central team that went a school-best 38-4 on its way to winning the Class 4A state title in 2010, Ludwig finished his career 23-3 with a 1.88 ERA and 234 strikeouts in 205 innings. He will continue his baseball at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., on scholarship.
“For three years, I don’t think he knows how to throw a ball that goes straight,” Coach Bill Seiple said after Ludwig beat Hinsdale Central on May 25 in his final high school appearance. “He’s just a very good pitcher. Belmont’s got a great one. Lefties that have movement and can throw pitches for strikes — that’s a great combination for him. He has been terrific.”
Complete game pitcher
Of Ludwig’s 23 career victories, 19 were complete games — including firing off eight complete games in 2011, seven of which came in a seven-game stretch from April 12 through May 17.
Pitching behind seniors Pat Kaminska and Shane Conlon during his first two years on the varsity level for Naperville Central, Ludwig flourished while going a combined 15-1 over those two years.
“All three years, it’s been nothing but pressure games,” Ludwig said. “So if you’re not used to it by now, you shouldn’t be on the team.”
What made him so good? As Naperville Central pitching coach John Scherrman said, “I think the thing with Luddy is that he pitches every game the same, regardless if it’s the state semifinal game (against Stevenson) or an early-season game in April against anybody. He has the same approach every game. And I can only think of a handful of times where I really kind of saw a little extra focus in his eyes. He pitched every game with that same mentality. I think that’s what allowed him to be a good big game pitcher.”
While suffering only three losses over 33 career starts, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Ludwig was at his best when it mattered most — the postseason, which he got acquainted with quickly when Seiple handed him the ball in those two postseason starts as a sophomore.
His postseason résumé speaks for itself: 5-0 with a 2.90 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 41 innings.
In the 2010 postseason. Ludwig earned complete-game victories in come-from-behind triumphs against both Lockport and Plainfield North before sending the Redhawks into the state final with a victory over Stevenson, which saw the even-keeled Ludwig settle into a groove after giving up two runs in the first.
Stellar 2011 season
This past season Ludwig and his teammates helped bring Seiple his 26th 20-win season in 30 years as the Redhawks worked through a massive roster overhaul by finding a way to win 21 games before falling to Downers Grove South in the regional final.
The two-time all-DuPage Valley Conference selection and the 2011 DuPage Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year first established his career-high of 13 strikeouts in the 2010 Class 4A Lockport Regional Final against Lockport and matched it in back-to-back April starts against Wheaton Warrenville South and Glenbard East while fanning at least nine in five of those seven straight complete games.
Ludwig was his usual unflappable self in his final time opposing Naperville North in the first game of a doubleheader in April. After allowing a first-inning run, he settled down by allowing one run the rest of the way in a 12-2 Central win.
“That was the first time in three years, I think, we actually had a lead on him,” said Naperville North coach Carl Hunckler of Ludwig, who finished 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in five career appearances against the Huskies. “It seems like every time we see him, he throws a three-hitter and that against us. He’s really good. He’s really good.”
In January Ludwig was one of 33 pitchers named to the 2011 Louisville Slugger Preseason High School All-American Team, becoming the second to garner All-American honors in program history, joining Conlon.
Leaving Naperville Central as one of the best pitchers in program history, Ludwig leaves a legacy of constantly thriving under pressure. That pressure and attention now will shift to right-hander Ian Lewandowski’s direction next season.
“For Luddy being the type of kid he is, he never gets worked up about anything — he just plays the game because he loves it and he does so well at it,” said Lewandowski, who went 8-3 with a 1.49 ERA as the team’s No. 2. “He just gave me the right attitude on the mound. Hopefully, I can carry that onto next year. The juniors behind me told me that they have seen the success I had behind Luddy and hopefully I can have the same success Luddy’s had.”