Scheels Athlete of the Week: Busy Offseason Leading to Big Senior Season for West High's Strunk

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – A four-year starter with a career .341 batting average Jason Strunk didn’t fit the mold of a player in need of an offseason overhaul.

That didn’t stop the West High all-stater from spending the entire offseason remaking himself as a hitter.

The results of that offseason work have the always dangerous Strunk enjoying the best season of his prep career in his final go-around at West High.

“He really did go out and fix his swing,” West High coach Charlie Stumpff said. “He went to Diamond Dreams and worked with Eric Toole and he came in a whole different swing. He has shortened up, he is staying on the baseball and he did good work in the offseason.”

A starter since his freshman season, Strunk has long been considered among the most talented hitters in the state.

He hit 15 home runs and drove in 94 runs in his first three seasons of varsity action and was a second team all-state selection as a sophomore in 2017.

As a junior Strunk set career highs with seven home runs, a .671 slugging percentage and a .527 on-base percentage.

Still Strunk was bothered by his 27 strikeouts in 79 plate appearances last season, his third straight high school season with at least 25 strikeouts.

So, he went to work changing his swing.

He worked with Toole, a former Iowa standout, at Diamond Dreams and spend hours at the West High facility in an effort to fine tune his power swing.

“There were a few things in my swing that were really glitchy, it was like a two-step swing instead of just one fluid motion,” Strunk said. “It was just getting that motion back and getting to where I am seeing balls and reacting differently than the past years.”

All the work has paid dividends for Strunk who is hitting a career-high .432 and has struck out just nine times in 79 plate appearances.

“He really improved his swing and feels really comfortable and confident with it,” Stumpff said.  “It is much more compact and he put lots of time in during the offseason and just kind of redid his swing.”
To go with his revamped swing Strunk has added an overall change in mindset for his senior season.

No longer worried about recruiting or outside distractions the Heartland Community College signee is locked in for his final summer as a high school athlete.

“I think of it is I am more relaxed this season,” Strunk said. “My freshman year to junior year I was on varsity I wasn’t getting recruited really, this offseason I committed to Heartland and now I’m not trying to prove it anybody any more.”

The changes for Strunk show up in his stat line.

To go with his career-best .432 batting average Strunk has put up career highs in slugging percentage (.773) and on-base percentage (.684) while helping West High to an 18-5 record and No. 3 ranking in Class 4A.

“I’m playing with my guys that I’ve been playing with since I was seven or eight and I just feel at home on the diamond which is awesome,” Strunk said. “I’m really enjoying this season.”

Strunk has three home runs among eight extra-base hits and has driven in 14 runs despite being walked a Class 4A leading 26 times.

He also been hit by a pitch nine times on his way to leading 4A with a .684 on-base percentage and ranks sixth in 4A with 29 runs scored.

“Sometime the game gets a little boring when you keep walking but it’s all what the team needs, a baserunner on is always what we need, that’s how you score runs,” Strunk said. “I’d like to be getting a hit or driving in the runs but if I’m the run getting driven in I’m just as happy.”

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