Life is good for Panthers senior outfielder, Sam Koenig. Koenig has been on a tear in his last year as a Panther batting .422, which included a 24 game hitting-streak, the programs fourth longest streak ever. His play so far has earned him back-to-back Horizon League Player of the Week honors, an award he has won three times this year. Along with Horizon League honors, Koenig’s statistics have received national attention after being added to the USA baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list, an award that goes to the top amateur baseball player in the country. He is the only player from the Horizon League on that list.
Along with his batting average, Koenig has a slugging percentage of .761 and an on base percentage (OBP) of .519. Those numbers top the Horizon league and rank him in the top half among all NCAA players in the country.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Prairie Du Sac, WI native. The senior has dealt with a long list of injuries that date back to his high-school days while playing for Sauk Prairie. In 2010, Koenig suffered a herniated disk in the summer before his freshman year at Milwaukee. In college Koenig has had surgery on his ankle in 2011, his wrist in 2012 and had hip surgery in 2014.
The most devastating of the injuries came last year when Koenig suffered a season-ending hand injury after just nine games into the year in which he was off to a hot start batting .424. That set-back made for a major comeback.
“Whenever you are injured you realize how lucky you are too be playing at this level,” Koenig said.” I mean I have had a lot of set-backs in my career so it gives me more motivation to come back and too come back stronger.”
The seniors strong start to the season has led the Panthers to an overall record of 17-11, (6-8) placing them fourth in the Horizon League conference. Koenig realizes that a conference title is not a sprint but a marathon and knows there is a lot of baseball left to be played.
“The first half of conference has been up and down. We’ve pretty much been in every game. This year we’ve been part of a lot of close losses so just moving forward we have to focus on getting better as a team and we will see where we are at the end of the season. I think it will be a good ending if we keep improving.”
Even with the season he has put together, Koenig is not focused on his individual statistics and is all-in for his team in his last season as a Panther.
“I just like to stick with the process. I don’t like to get too caught up in stats I just try and help the team win and as far as the team goes, we are trying to win the conference title and the Horizon League Tournament. I haven’t been a part of a regional and that would be awesome.”
With an already impressive senior campaign, Koenig also has been able to be a part of one of the most memorable seasons in program history. Earlier this year the Panthers were able to play an exhibition game for the first time in school history against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was really, really cool to match yourself up with them because those guys are obviously some of the best in the world,” Koenig said about the experience.
Koenig has also been able to experience an historic week for the program when they no-hit UW- Superior, the programs first no-hitter in school history. The very next day Milwaukee knocked off 15th ranked Iowa 4-3 which was the first time the program beat a ranked opponent since 2009 when they beat No. 25 ranked Michigan.
“I mean obviously those are huge steps for our program. Beating Iowa is something we always like doing because we are in the Horizon league. We always like beating Big Ten teams.”
With all the rehab and set-backs Koenig has suffered over the past five years, it seems to be paying off at the right time. Koenig is still unclear what his future holds for him after this season but he made it clear that baseball is something he wants to pursue.
“We will see about the draft. It’s a goal of mine but I can’t control it. If baseball doesn’t work out I am probably going to teach and coach. Only time will tell.”
For now, keep a close eye on number 19 in the silver and black when he digs into the batters-box. He might just drive a ball over the left field wall on a hanging curve-ball or even smack a double into the gap. Who knows what will happen when one of the countries toughest outs is at the plate.
Only time will tell.