Baseball: McHenry grad Gavin Micklinghoff off to hot start with MCC, commits to NIU

Micklinghoff 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA

McHenry's Gavin Micklinghoff (15) celebrates a big out during the 2022 Class 4A Supersectional game between York and McHenry.

McHenry pitcher Gavin Micklinghoff initially was headed to Waukesha, Wisconsin, to play with close friends and high school teammates Connor Rodgers and Eddie Synek at NCAA Division III Carroll University.

The Warriors had just made school history by taking fourth in the Class 4A State Tournament. Micklinghoff could have had four more years together with Rodgers and Synek.

But in the summer of 2022, Micklinghoff had second thoughts. He thought McHenry County College might be a better, less expensive option since he was undecided on a major field of study.

“I wasn’t fully sure about it,” Micklinghoff said. “I gave (MCC) coach (Jared) Wacker a call over the summer to see if he had a spot. I was very grateful that he did. Ever since I’ve been at MCC, everything’s starting to click. I’ve been getting better every day and I’m glad my work has paid off.”

Micklinghoff is off to a sizzling start for the Scots – 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP – and he committed to Northern Illinois University one week ago where he will pitch next year.

McHenry County College pitcher Gavin Micklinghof

“Gavin was kind of a last-minute deal,” Wacker said. “(McHenry coach Brian) Rockweiler called late in the summer. I told him I was interested and was in communication with Gavin. We had conversations during his senior year, but we never had him on campus. He had decided he wanted to go the four-year route.

“He’s really competitive on the mound and handles himself well in close games. That’s always something I’ve appreciated about him. He’s a super-competitive guy who doesn’t get caught up in the moment and really competes for each pitch.”

Micklinghoff has thrown 21 innings, struck out 29 and walked only six, giving him 12.43 strikeouts per nine innings, almost twice what it was last season (6.83). As a freshman, he went 7-1 with a 4.55 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings.

Wacker said Micklinghoff (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) has increased his velocity by 4 to 5 mph since last season.

“Last spring I was probably 185, 190 pounds,” Micklinghoff said. “So I’ve gained 10 to 15 pounds. That’s definitely helped the velocity go up quite a bit.”

The speed gun now has Micklinghoff’s fastballs in the 88-91 mph range, Wacker said.

“He’s getting a lot more swing and miss on the offspeed pitches, where he was more a pitch-to-contact guy last year,” Wacker said. “This spring he’s been able to command the fastball on both sides and throw his slider and changeup for strikes whenever he wants to. The slider has a lot more movement on it since he’s throwing so much harder.

“He’s had a nice velocity jump, and he’s done a great job in the weight room and gotten stronger. He’s always had a nice frame, but now he’s starting to fill it out and get stronger.”

That work ethic gets noticed by Micklinghoff’s teammates.

“This kid has worked his tail off in the offseason,” said catcher Brandon Hanley, a 2022 Huntley graduate. “Every time we come to practice he’s throwing a bullpen or working on his arm care. He’s always striving to get 1% better. He has a great work ethic. He’s been very polished.

“Gavin brings great energy to every game he’s pitching in. Just his mound presence is a very mature approach. He’s been very good for our staff, and he’s been one of our better guys on our staff. Our staff is very polished and Gavin stands out a lot.”

Wacker said this is the deepest pitching staff he has had in 13 seasons with the Scots. Micklinghoff (NIU), Hampshire graduate Dylan Petrey (Indiana State) and Crystal Lake South’s Dom Guzman (Gardner Webb) are headed to D-I schools. South’s Mark DeCicco is going to D-II Illinois-Springfield.

McHenry’s Lleyton Grubich, who also was on the Warriors’ 2022 team, is another starter.

“Our pitching staff is … it’s ridiculous, man,” Micklinghoff said. “Our pitching staff is gross. We have some young hitters who are starting to get it. We have some guys at the top of our lineup who hit the ball well. We’re only going to be better. I can’t wait to see what we’re doing until playoff time.”

Micklinghoff will join another McHenry player from the fourth-place state team in DeKalb, catcher Cooper Cohn. NIU coach Ryan Copeland recruited Cohn to Illinois-Springfield, then Cohn got out of that commitment when Copeland left, and went to NIU with him.

“I texted Cooper a few times and he only had great things to say about them,” Micklinghoff said. “Every time I talked with coach Copeland and coach (Calvin) Peacock, they know what they’re doing. They convinced me right away. I talked to Cooper about them many times.”