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WHITING — It's been an eventful year for Amir Wright.

Nearly two weeks before the beginning of his freshman season at St. Joseph's, the Pumas were informed the school was closing following the conclusion of the second semester May 6.

"It was a good year, but it was different because not everybody's school is shut down forcing you to look elsewhere," Wright said. "There was a lot of emotion and a lot of tears and some people were angry, but (St. Joseph's) coach (Rick) O'Dette stressed making the best of it."

After a 34-20 season, St. Joe's clinched a berth in the NCAA Division-II Tournament. St. Joe's beat Southern Indiana 5-4 in the first game of the Midwest Regional before losing to Quincy 9-8 and Kentucky Wesleyan 4-1 on May 20 to finish 35-22.

"Everybody stuck together and made it one special season," Wright said. "It showed how much fight we had in us and how tough we were and how much we really cared about each other and our school."

Wright played in 56 games and started in 54 for the Pumas, mainly from the lead-off spot in center field. He hit .301 and was fourth on the team in hits with 63, adding 30 RBIs. His 44 runs were second and led the team in walks with 35 with a .398 on-base percentage.

"I felt my game jumped as the season went on," Wright said. "It was around the end of the fall where coach sat me down and said 'you're our leadoff guy and we need you to set the tone.' It wasn't a new role for me, just a different level, so I knew had to work much harder. I got a little faster, put on about 25 lbs. of muscle and worked all winter with a hitting coach on my swing."

Wright's next destination was figured out quickly, catching the eye of Kentucky Wesleyan in the Pumas' opening series.

"I had a solid game against them and I went on a visit a couple weeks later and loved it," Wright said. "The coaches are great people and made me feel at home. They treated my family and I great and that's big. The coaches talked a lot about the future and my potential and I loved it. I'll get to play CF there too so that was big for me and makes for a smooth transition."

Wright will play for a second summer in the Midwest Collegiate League. He was a 2016 MCL All-Star and felt the time in the MCL was vital to his success.

"Playing at a high-level against college guys right out of high school last year, I felt like I could come right in and fight for a starting spot," Wright said. "The MCL allowed me to hit the ground running. The speed of the game wasn't an issue, because I had about 40 games under my belt.

A Griffith native, Wright turned down offers from the Ohio Valley League and the Virginia Beach League. Wright played for the MCL's Southland Vikings, but couldn't turn down the offer from Oilmen manager Adam Enright, who coached Wright in the MCL All-Star game.

"He told me last year that if I wanted a spot here, that he'd be happy to have me," Wright said. "When I got the opportunity, I was like 'why not?' I get to represent the Region in a positive way and this stadium is not something every team has."

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Sports Reporter

CJ grew up shadowing his father, Jim, at various prep events and now follows in his footsteps as a sports reporter at The Times. A Purdue University graduate, his allegiances lie with the Boilermakers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds.