Mark Wanner was on the road with his Washburn University teammates when the former Rochelle Township High School baseball standout heard the unfortunate news that his final collegiate season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wanner had been dominating opposing pitchers prior to the cancellation, which made the news much tougher for him to hear. The senior infielder appeared in 16 games with seven starts, leading the Ichabods with a .424 average while adding three extra-base hits and five RBIs. Wanner was ranked second in the Division II MIAA Conference in hitting before play stopped.
“I was devastated when I found out our season was canceled,” Wanner said. “We were halfway to our weekend series and we had to turn around and come back to campus. I understand why our season was canceled but I was disappointed that I couldn’t finish the season.”
Wanner had been making significant strides from his junior campaign, where he finished with a .190 batting average and six RBIs. Despite missing time this past summer with a broken arm he suffered on a hit-by-pitch, Wanner said the mechanical adjustments he made to his swing over the offseason helped facilitate the improvements he saw in the box this season.
“The changes I made allowed me to have a great summer until I broke my arm,” Wanner said. “I used most of the fall to rehab, but I played well in our fall games. I continued to work hard on my mechanical adjustments over the winter and they were paying off this spring.”
Wanner, who helped guide Rochelle to an IHSA 3A Regional Championship in 2014, began his collegiate career at the NJCAA level, spending one season with Indian Hills Community College before transferring to McHenry County College, where he slashed .354/.453/.531 with 36 RBIs and was named an All-ISCC First Team member in 2018. He earned MIAA Academic Honor Roll recognition during his first season with Washburn University in 2019.
“My favorite thing about the Washburn team was playing the game I love at a high level with such a great group of teammates with similar goals of competing and winning,” Wanner said. “I had a great experience with Washburn baseball. I made a lot of lifelong friends and we had a great fan base for the baseball team, which warranted an awesome atmosphere to play in. I was off to a great start to the season and I thought we had a great team chemistry.”
Wanner, who majored in physical therapy, said he plans to enter a doctorate program and pursue a career in rehabilitation and athletic training. He said his most memorable experience with the Washburn baseball program was traveling to San Bernadino, California for a three-game series against California State in February. During the second game of the series, Washburn trailed 5-4 before Wanner hit a game-tying single in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a cool experience flying over there with my teammates and touring the local beaches while playing a team from California,” Wanner said.