By Todd Wills
Special to the Daily Sun
Christian Stringer had a weekend to remember in Raleigh, N.C, even though Rice was eliminated in a NCAA Super Regional Series against North Carolina State.
Stringer hit three home runs in two games in a span of about 24 hours, doubling his career total from three to six in two years. He had hit one home run in 62 games this season before the Super Regional.
Stringer, who played second base on Navarro’s 2011 national championship team, also was selected in the 16th round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, getting the call from the Chicago White Sox before the start of Saturdays’ first game of the Super Regional.
Stringer, who played for Navarro from 2010-11, wasn’t sure what to be more surprised by, the power surge or getting drafted in the teens.
OK, maybe it was being a 16th-round pick.
“I was a little surprised,” Stringer said. “I was told I would either go in top 10 rounds or once I didn’t get drafted in top 10, I thought it would be late.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders, a stress relief,” he said. “That might have helped me out this week.”
Stringer belted his first home run in the fourth inning of the first game, tying the game at the time at 2-2. He also had a go-ahead double in the top of the ninth that gave the Owls a 3-2 lead. The Wolfpack scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win Game 1, 4-3.
Stringer changed his approach against Wolfpack Game 1 starter Carlos Rodon, who could be the top pick in the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Stringer had struck out and hit into a double play his first two at-bats.
“I had been choking up,” Stringer said. “(Rodon) was supposed to be a big prospect. So I was short to the ball. My third at-bat I got down on the knob. I was looking for a fastball and hit a pop fly to right field that went out.”
Stringer’s good feeling from the home run and the go-ahead double carried over to Sunday’s 17-inning Game 2. He belted a home run right under the scoreboard in right field for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. He swatted a second homer in the sixth inning to give Rice a 2-0 lead at the time.
Stringer said he had a terrible batting practice both days, but it didn’t matter.
“I was relaxed up there,” Stringer said. “I went with the same approach, keeping hands inside the ball.”
The Wolfpack pitched around Stringer after that, even giving him an intentional walk in bottom of the ninth after N.C. State had scored three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 4-4.
Stringer did get a chance in the bottom of the 17th with the Owls trailing 5-4 and down to their last out. With the tying run at third and the winning run at first, Stringer went for the first pitch — not a habit of his — and flew out to left field to end the game.
That didn’t take away from a special weekend shared with his parents, Randy and Carla Stringer, who made the trip from Longview.
Next up will be minor league ball. Stringer figured he’d go in the late rounds as a senior willing to sign for anything, he said. But he said a few months back a White Sox scout had introduced himself at the Rice batting cages and asked Stringer why he hadn’t filled out a questionnaire from the club.
Stringer filled it out, sent it back and the White Sox snatched him up in the 16th round, knowing of Rice’ propensity for producing pro players (Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz Jr., Anthony Rendon to name a few).
From two years at Navarro and the national title at Rice, Stringer, who by the way was the elected father of Rally T Turtle — the Bulldogs’ well-known 2011 mascot — said he is ready for anything.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Stringer said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”