RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (BVM) – As one of the country’s top players in the Class of 2023, Austen Roellig was ready to prove his worth as an upperclassman for the Etiwanda Eagles baseball team last season. Just eight games into the campaign, Roellig was showing how elite he was, hitting .458 with four doubles, three RBIs and a home run.
“It was such a great season, eight games in with no errors,” Roellig said. “I was making backhands, throwing around plays, Derek Jeter plays, plays up the middle. I was having a good season overall.”
But as the middle infielder went to make a throw the day after the team’s March 11 game against Corona, he felt his arm pop.
“I went out the day after, I was throwing the baseball just loosening my arm and boom my arm just popped,” Roellig said. “I was like ‘Damn, there’s no way.’ So that happened and I DH’d after that. I was pretty down on myself at one point. It took a toll on me.”
Due to the UCL injury, Roellig was relegated to the batter’s box exclusively for the season. He performed well, batting .446 with 37 hits, 34 runs scored, 19 RBIs and two home runs while leading his Eagles team to a CIF-Southern Section Division II baseball championship victory.
“That’s special to me because growing up Etiwanda was one of the high schools I wanted to go to for baseball, especially with the past history of the Freemans [MiLB players Cody and Tyler Freeman] and all the other good players I looked up to all of them,” Roellig said. “Watching them win the CIF, I knew I was going to win that title for Etiwanda and we did it. It happened.”
🏆⚾️ D2 BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ⚾️🏆
Congrats to @Etiwandabasebll!
They are your 2022 CIF-SS @SoCaliFord D2 Baseball CHAMPIONS! 👏
— CIF Southern Section (@CIFSS) May 22, 2022
But with that sweet taste of victory came the bitter reality of Tommy John surgery, with a notoriously grueling recovery for baseball players. Roellig went under the knife in May and his recovery forced him to miss summer league games for the first time in his prep baseball career.
thankyou JB ! https://t.co/ebc53ghtoB
— roelly (@austenroellig) May 26, 2022
After months of recovery, Roellig was showing progress. Though it was a long rehabilitation process, Roellig stayed focused on controlling what he could and stayed as mentally upbeat as he could throughout.
“I just kinda stayed positive and took my time with everything and getting back into things,” Roellig said. “I stayed positive and stayed smiling and that’s all baseball is about, it’s about having fun.”
Tommy John ? whats that ?… like it never happend. pic.twitter.com/YSI7HqY7L2
— roelly (@austenroellig) October 29, 2022
By the time the Eagles season rolled back around this February, Roellig was fully recovered. He made a position change from shortstop to second base, as the throw was a bit shorter so he could still make it as he continued to regain his arm strength.
“Throwing-wise, it gets shorthanded I’m going to be honest, but that’s just part of the recovery process,” Roellig said. “It’s not bad though. I’m doing pretty good I’d say.”
It took some time for Roellig to get his swing back, as he went hitless over his first 12 plate appearances in six games to start the year, but he has adjusted nicely. In 15 games, Roellig is hitting .292 with 14 runs scored and five RBIs. For Roellig, he wants to use the season to prove that despite his surgery, he’s still an elite prospect.
“It’s kind of a chip on my shoulder,” Roellig said. “It motivates me, it makes me feel better as a person that I’m finally getting back into the rhythm of things because it sucks not having your name out there. I was last year and previous years before that and now I’m not hearing my name on anything anymore and it sucks. It’s motivating me to do better and seeing myself getting back into things feels good.”
Nice to see a healthy Austen Roellig (2023) at the yard. @Etiwandabasebll SS coming off arm injury. Set to match up with Chino Hills tomorrow at The Epicenter. Roellig is a @LSUbaseball commit. #PGHS@PG_scouting @CBABaseballUSA pic.twitter.com/wPrIeTFo5r
— Perfect Game California (@California_PG) April 1, 2023
Though he may not be receiving the same attention as he was, ranking as the No. 49 player in California and the No. 302 player nationally in the Class of 2023 by Prep Baseball Report, Roellig is set to have a bright future. The middle infielder is currently signed with the Louisiana State University Tigers, the top-ranked Division I team in the country as of writing.
“LSU is one of the top schools and they have always been one of the top schools and to see that they are the top school, the No. 1 school in the nation and now that I’m going there next year? I’m ecstatic,” Roellig said. “There’s no other words to describe it. I’m excited. Just to get in the grind and play for the No. 1 team in the nation, it’s surreal.”
While originally verbally committed to Arizona, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound infielder flipped his commitment to the Tigers to follow head coach Jay Johnson to the program.
“The day after Jay went to LSU he gave me a call and said ‘Hey, I want you here with me,’” Roellig said. “So he brought me there with him.”
Given his relationship with the coaching staff, the team never wavered in its commitment to Roellig, even with his severe injury.
“[Jay] was just hoping for a speedy recovery which did happen and said as long as I’m good by January and February I was fine,” Roellig said. “I still have my scholarship so I’m good. Knowing that the coaches still believe in me even after the surgery, that just motivates me so much to go out there and do my thing. Just don’t think about it and have fun.”
Of course, Roellig understands the significance of playing for a program like LSU. Given their 231 MLB draft selections and eight players currently playing in the major leagues, the Tigers are one of the best at producing high-end baseball talent, something Roellig is well aware of.
“LSU has always been one of the top programs in the nation and just me with LSU on my chest is going to do enough work for me,” Roellig said. “I want to get drafted. I want to make my family proud.”
But before he makes his way to campus, Roellig still has one final season with the Eagles. For his finale, the senior has one goal in mind.
“I want to win another championship; I want to win another championship,” Roellig said. “No matter what it takes.”