Canyon Crest Academy alumnus Austin Kay recently capped his baseball career with a satisfying walk-off championship title. The Encinitas-native helped the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen baseball team win its first ever NCAA Division III National Championship on May 30. The title is only the second DIII national title in school history.
“If you would have asked me in February, that these guys and this team would be sitting here, I would have looked at you and said you’re nuts,” said head coach Marty Slimak in a release. “We had so many question marks we didn’t know we could get close to something like this, but as the season progressed these guys started coming together and it was just a great clubhouse.”
“The thing that really set us apart was our camaraderie,” Kay said of the brotherly team atmosphere. “We were really in it for each other and that helped us stay loose.”
In the College World Series, Cal Lutheran beat Washington and Jefferson in a best-of-three series at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisc. Cal Lutheran came out on top after dropping the first game of the series, going on to win 12-4 in game two and 7-2 in game three. Kay, the Kingsmen’s starting shortstop, had several key at-bats in the tournament, including cracking a two-RBI double in game two which broke the game wide open.
Kay would be named to the All-Tournament Team, with five hits in the championship game and finishing the tournament with a .345 average and seven RBIs.
Kay started playing baseball in the La Costa Youth Organization and it has always been his main sport.
“I just loved the game. I started playing it when I was 2 in my backyard,” Kay said. “I put a lot of hard work into it.”
Throughout his youth, Kay played mostly infield and also pitched through four years on the CCA Ravens.
He was scouted a little bit by colleges but Cal Lutheran offered him an academic scholarship to attend and play baseball. He studied environmental science and graduated this May, redshirting a year due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.
This season got off to a shaky start for the Kingsmen as they went 4-6. The team was able to regroup and rip off a 15-game win streak.
“We finished the year strong,” Kay said of the team, which would only drop a few more games the whole year, ending the season 40-11.
Heading into the College World Series championships, the Kingsmen had won 12 games in a two and 16 of their last 16 games, sweeping through their conference tournament and the regionals in Tyler, Texas.
After dropping that one game in a brutal 12-2 loss, the team fought back to win the next two. In game three, they put up runs early and poured on more in the seventh and eighth innings, putting the title well within reach.
“It was the top of the world kind of feeling, it was unbelievable,” Kay said. “It was something really great to be a part of because of the way we started the season, we weren’t supposed to win it. We hit the ball really well and our pitchers really stepped up.”
Kay will remain in Thousand Oaks through mid-July and will then move to Oceanside to start his new job. The college grad will be working as an environmental consultant.
“I think in a couple of months I’ll miss it,” Kay said of the end of his baseball life. “But it was a really good way to go out and I’m definitely happy with how my career went.”