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Aungst stars as freshman at St. Joe's

The Saint Joseph's coaching staff wasted no time in testing freshman pitcher Justin Aungst.

Aungst quickly proved that he was up for the challenge. And then some.

It wasn't just Aungst's first collegiate game. It was a lot more than that. In the Hawks' season opener against Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, CA, located 2,500 miles across country from the Hawks' home in Philadelphia, Aungst's name was called in the sixth inning in relief. Four innings later, he picked up the win after pitching three hitless frames and striking out four batters.

That set the stage for Aungst, who finished as one of the Hawks' top pitchers and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.

"We were playing a highly-ranked team all of the way across the country," Aungst said. "Once I settled in and got the first couple of batters, I realized this is no different than what I've been doing my whole career.

"In the beginning of the season, there was definitely an adjustment," Aungst said. "There is a lot more strategy and thought behind the game rather than high school. Once I got adjusted and got my first couple of outings, my confidence just kept rising."

His success at Salisbury is a storied one that includes two Colonial League and two District 11 Class AA championships. But when he began his college playing days, he wasn't sure what to expect.

"Once I started pitching on a regular basis, I thought that I belonged here and I've shown I could do it," Aungst said. "So I knew my number may be getting called more and more. As my number did get called more and more, I fit into the role that they needed me to. I started games and did long reliefs."

Aungst, who appeared in 16 games with four starts, compiled a 5-0 record with a team-high 1.60 ERA (ranked top in the conference based on qualified pitchers). He struck out 47 batters compared to 15 walks, and opposing batters hit just .217 against the freshman.

While the stat line shows plenty of success, there was an adjustment period for Aungst coming from Salisbury into his first college season.

As a member of the Falcons' pitching staff over four years, Aungst was accustomed to starting games and pitching well into them. Coming into a game in relief was a rarity. But now at St. Joe's, that became his new role.

"My whole career I never really like coming in in relief," Aungst said. "For some reason I didn't mind it this year. I generally would always come into close games and early in the game usually, so I kind of treated it as a start and go as long as I could."

As a team, the Hawks (21-28 overall) went 11-12 in conference play. It was a complete 180-degree turn from his days at Salisbury.

But next season may prove to be a different story. The Hawks return all of their pitching staff except closer Lansing Veeder, a senior that recorded five saves and a 2.92 ERA.

So, Aungst and the Hawks have higher expectations going into the offseason.

"This year was pretty much almost all sophomores and freshmen," Aungst said. "As we grow and as we go as players, we're just going to keep getting better."

Aungst is even anticipating a different role himself, one that he thrived in as a Falcon.

"Next year, the coach's plan for me is to be a starter," Aungst said.

Aungst plays in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL) in the offseason for the Allentown Railers.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOE LUCCA Justin Aungst, a 2014 graduate of Salisbury, finished 5-0 on the mound for St. Joe's this season with a 1.60 ERA and 47 strikeouts.