SRJC baseball star faces big decision

Bear Cubs pitcher Austin Ehrlicher throws a solid five innings against College of Marin on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, in Santa Rosa.
Bear Cubs pitcher Austin Ehrlicher throws a solid five innings against College of Marin on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, in Santa Rosa.
Nick Vides

Go pro or take his talents to a Division I college? That was the decision Santa Rosa Junior College player Austin Ehrlicher had to make last summer. 

On July 19, 2022 the top-ranked Boston Red Sox drafted Ehrlicher in the 18th round as a pitcher. Not too long after, Arizona State University’s baseball recruiters offered him a full-ride scholarship for the same position.

Most athletes wouldn’t hesitate to sign with a major league team, but for Ehrlicher, it wasn’t a clearcut decision.

Born and raised in Santa Rosa, Ehrlicher was on track to live out his childhood dreams. Ehrlicher has always had a love for sports and played baseball at a competitive level.

“Getting to play Little League growing up allowed me to really enjoy playing the game with a lot of my best friends,” Ehrlicher said. “Some of my favorite memories growing up came from baseball tournaments, whether it was on the field or messing with my friends.”

Many kids lose the love and focus required to reach their full potential. However, the memories Ehrlicher made throughout childhood helped keep his love for the game alive. “I want to make sure I keep the same enjoyment of the game that I had as a kid. Obviously, there’s a certain focus that you have to bring to the field, but if you let go of one of your ‘why’s’, then it’ll be hard to succeed,” Ehrlicher said.

The closer Ehrlicher got to his goal of being on an MLB roster, the more fire he added. But MLB wasn’t always the end goal. Because the pandemic started during his junior year at Maria Carrillo High School, he wasn’t sure he would ever play baseball again.

“I came back after COVID not knowing if I was going to play baseball my senior year but ended up having a really good year at the plate and started to develop some good velocity on the mound,” Ehrlicher said.

Baseball wasn’t the only thing he excelled at; he was a multi-sport athlete split between baseball and basketball. “I always took basketball more seriously than baseball. It wasn’t until after my senior year of high school baseball ended that I knew I wanted to play in the MLB one day,” Ehrlicher said. “So many people now just focus on one sport their whole life, which I think limits them to some of the intangible things that I’ve gained from playing basketball.”

Ehrlicher played both sports his freshman year at SRJC. His hard work in basketball eventually paid off as he transferred the athletic ability he gained from the court to use on the mound. 

In his first year, Ehrlicher put up 43 strikeouts, 10.18 strikeouts per nine innings, allowed 32 hits and 20 runs with an ERA of 4.26. Ehrlicher’s batting stats consisted of nine hits, five runs and three home runs with five RBIs and a batting average of .321. His stats were impressive enough that several college recruiters began reaching out to him last summer.

On day three of the MLB draft, with the 549th pick, the Boston Red Sox selected Ehrlicher for its pitching pool.

“It was a pretty cool feeling, honestly, to see that a team drafted me was a special moment,” Ehrlicher said. The draft came as a surprise for Ehrlicher, who knew it was a longshot and wasn’t expecting himself, a community college freshman, to go straight to the Major Leagues. “It was a reminder to keep doing what I’m doing,” Ehrlicher said. “I had put in so much work over the course of a year to try and put myself in a position where something like that could happen, so to see it pay off was awesome.”

Although honored by the selection, Ehrlicher didn’t leap at the MLB opportunity. He turned it down. He wanted to improve his work on the mound as much as possible before making
the jump to the big leagues.

“After I got drafted, I didn’t know where I was going to commit to college. I didn’t sign because I thought that I could create a better situation for myself in this year’s draft if I came back to [the] junior college for a year,” Ehrlicher said.

He decided to keep his options open. Of the several colleges trying to recruit him, one stood out. Arizona State University’s Division 1 baseball coaches called him after seeing what he could bring to the table. He visited there, and in late October, ASU sent him an official offer: A full-ride scholarship that covers tuition, housing and expenses. He accepted in early November.

“I had most of my other visits planned out, but after we did that [visit], I just realized that ASU was a place that I could see myself at,” Ehrlicher said. “It just felt like the right place for me, so I committed.”

Though he opted to finish college, getting drafted by the MLB motivated him to make another difficult decision — to drop basketball during his sophomore year and focus solely on baseball, and especially his pitching career.

The focus paid off. Ehrlicher’s stats at the mound this season were equally impressive. He pitched 65 strikeouts, with 10.26 strikeouts per nine innings, allowed 44 hits and 26 runs with an ERA of 3.95. Ehrlicher’s batting stats stand at 16 hits, 10 runs, one home run and 13 RBI’s with a .205 batting average.

“His style of play is very calm,” SRJC baseball coach Damon Neidlinger said. “Austin never points fingers or takes his adversities out on anyone else.”

Ehrlicher’s end goal has not changed. He will continue his collegiate career to make sure he puts himself in the best scenario possible. He will train beyond what is necessary for when he decides the MLB is right for him.

Bear Cubs designated hitter/pitcher Austin Ehrlicher is high-fived by his teammates after having a 4-6, 4 RBI night against College of Marin on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Santa Rosa. (Nick Vides)
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About the Contributors
Alex Cambron Padilla
Alex is in his second semester at SRJC. As an Oak Leaf sports reporter he plans to eventually transfer to a 4-year and continue to follow sports reporting.
Nick Vides
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.  

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