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Abilene Christian hurler Chirpich to capitalize on NCAA extension

THE DELIVERY — Abilene Christian University pitcher Spencer Chirpich delivers a fastball during Division I collegiate baseball action earlier this month. Chirpich will take advantage of receiving another year of athletic eligibility next spring after the NCAA cancelled this year due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Spencer Chirpich)

FAIRMONT — After multiple injuries and transferring to a Division I school, Spencer Chirpich has a bit more trouble to fight through to continue his baseball career.

Chirpich, a senior at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, and a former Fairmont High School sports standout, was on his way back from a game at the University of Texas in Austin when he got the news.

“We had played one conference series. We lost that series two games to one, but we had quite a few home games coming up, conference series,” Chirpich said. “We were hoping to get on a roll there, get the conferences going on and hopefully work our way into the conference and regional tournaments. But we didn’t get that chance.

“We were playing the University of Texas on Wednesday night (March 11) and after the game we found out they cancelled the NBA season, so we kind of thought after that, ya they were going to shut us down.”

Fifteen games into the baseball season, the Wildcats’ year was over.

Like many seniors, Chirpich was worried that his career was over, but he quickly found out it was likely students playing spring sports would receive another year of athletic eligibility.

Chirpich said because he transferred, academics will keep him in school through next season, making the decision to use the extra year a little easier.

“Being that I transferred schools a couple of times, I still had some schooling left to do so that won’t affect me,” Chirpich said. “Other guys, they probably would have graduated.

“There’s probably some guys that are graduating this spring, and that might be the last time they get to play baseball.”

After Chirpich found out the rest of the baseball season had been cancelled, he flew home to be with his family. He said last week (March 14-21) was Abilene’s scheduled spring break, giving Chirpich his first spring break since his freshman year. He said ACU extended the break, waiting to start classes online until Monday.

With classes going fully online, Chirpich said he is not worried about his academics suffering.

“I’ve taken some online classes before, so I think it should be OK,” Chirpich said. “It just depends on the class and how the teachers set it up to work for an online class, I guess it could be different.”

Through the 15 games of the 2020 season, the senior pitcher worked 11 innings in four appearances. He said he had only made one start because a bone spur had forced him into the bullpen early in the season, but he had begun getting back to full strength.

Now he has nothing but time to get healthy.

In his lone fully-healthy season with ACU, Chirpich went 7-4 in 14 starts, throwing a team-high 78 innings and allowing 81 hits and 40 earned runs.

Before transferring to ACU for two seasons of Division I play, Chirpich spent two years at North Iowa Area Community College, where he combined for a 10-7 record in 22 appearances — including 20 starts — in his two seasons.

Though he will spend the next few months at home in Fairmont instead of on the ACU campus, Chirpich said he is focused on everything getting back to normal.

“We’re just hoping and praying that we can solve this virus and find a cure and everything can go back to normal,” Chirpich said. “Just living a normal life like we had before.”

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