Austyn Winkleblech is a Big Mac who has been a “big man on campus” this spring.
But instead of two patties and a special sauce, Winkleblech’s story is that of a special athlete standing out in two sports.
“It’s pretty special to excel in two spring sports at one time. It’s pretty unheard of,” Canon-McMillan baseball coach Brendon Steele said.
Winkleblech’s athletic future lies on the diamond — he’ll continue his career at Pitt — and this outstanding senior pitcher, speedster and all-section pick has Canon-McMillan two wins away from playing for a WPIAL baseball title. But Winkleblech has also announced his presence on the track this season and, despite running in only a few meets and practicing a handful of times, last week ran the 100-meter dash in a scorching 10.62 seconds, faster than anyone in the history of the WPIAL track and field championships.
“Those kinds of guys aren’t just growing on trees,” said Mike Koot, the track coach at Canon-McMillan since 1994. “He’s got a ton of athletic ability, and from what I can see, anything he puts his mind to he’s successful at.”
Winkleblech, who also starred for the Canon-McMillan football team, is hoping for more success this week, one that sets up to be perhaps the biggest of his high school career. Monday, Winkleblech will get the start on the mound and bat leadoff when Canon-McMillan meets Butler in the WPIAL Class 6A baseball quarterfinals. A win would advance the Big Macs to Tuesday’s semifinals. And then on Friday, Winkleblech will be at Shippensburg University competing in the PIAA track and field championships for the first time. He’s the No. 4 seed in the Class 3A 100-meter dash. If he advances from Friday’s preliminaries, he’ll move on to Saturday’s final.
“I’m very much looking forward to it,” said Winkleblech, who will travel with his family to Shippensburg on Thursday night.
Baseball has long been Winkleblech’s top sport. He committed to Pitt in the fall of his sophomore year at Central Catholic. Winkleblech then transferred to his home district of Canon-McMillan the following year. The track success, on the other hand, is new. Winkleblech is no stranger to the sport, having participated in it from fourth grade all the way through his eighth grade year at Louise de Marillac Catholic School in Upper St. Clair. Winkleblech then dropped it when he got to high school before deciding to give indoor track a chance his junior year.
What sparked Winkleblech’s interest in returning to track?
“My mother. She pushed for it,” he said.
Tammy (Moore) Winkleblech was a talented high school sprinter herself in Iowa and competed in the prestigious Drake Relays. Mom said she had a good feeling the oldest of her two sons would shine on the track, as well.
“He’s a kid who has so much talent in any sport,” said Tammy, whose husband, Keith, played football at Westminster. “He’s played volleyball, ice hockey, track, basketball, baseball, football. Anything he does, he’s a natural at.”
Winkleblech announcing his arrival on the track had to wait a year after he suffered an injury early in the 2021-22 indoor season. He then chose to play only baseball last spring. Back to 100% this past winter, Winkleblech placed fourth in the 60-meter dash at the PTFCA state indoor championships. He was the only WPIAL runner to advance to the final.
Success has since followed him in what has been his outdoor debut. In just his third meet of the season, Winkleblech ran the 100 in what was then a personal-best 11.01 at the West Mifflin Last Chance meet on May 12 that qualified him for the WPIAL championships. It came less than 24 hours after he was the winning pitcher in Canon-McMillan’s regular-season finale in baseball.
At WPIAL’s, Winkleblech, who has practiced only a few times this spring, wasted little time in showing off his terrific speed. His 10.62 in preliminaries was the fastest in meet history, and is expected to be recognized as the record despite it not coming in the final and the fact that it was wind-aided (4.6). It had been held by West Mifflin graduate Montel Williamson, who ran a 10.65 in 2005. Winkleblech wasn’t quite as fast in the final, but still ran a 10.73, earning him a silver medal after finishing just behind New Castle sophomore Kaevon Gardner (10.70).
“It was very exciting,” Tammy Winkleblech said. “I cried when I found out he broke the record.”
For Austyn Winkleblech, there’s little sleep or rest. The very next day, he was on the field helping Canon-McMillan prepare for its playoff baseball opener. Steele, in his first season as head coach, said he had no issues with Winkleblech playing both sports this season.
“He was able to do it as a junior. The previous coach, Tim Bruzdewicz, allowed him to do it, and I had no problem with it,” Steele said. “He told us he wouldn’t miss any games. I’m a big competition guy, and I like kids playing multiple sports.”
It’s been a big bounce-back season for Winkleblech and his buddies, as the No. 3-seeded Big Macs have gone 15-5 after finishing 5-11 a season ago. The Section 2 champs have won eight of their past nine games and hope to win their first WPIAL title after claiming WPIAL and PIAA crowns in 2018.
Winkleblech has been excellent on the mound, leading Canon-McMillan in wins and strikeouts. He’s 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA and has struck out 54 in 55⅔ innings. He has also been solid at the plate and in the outfield, where he will play at Pitt. Winkleblech is batting .283 with a .424 on-base percentage and — surprise, surprise — has swiped a team-best 11 bases. He said he has been timed at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
“He’s had a very good season,” said Steele. “On the mound, he’s our ace. In center field, we don’t expect any balls to drop. At the plate, he drives up pitching counts and hits the ball well.”
With his athletic ability, Winkleblech has had options on his plate. He said colleges were showing interest in him for football after he produced 47 receptions for 824 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall, which ranked among the WPIAL leaders in the largest classification.
And if Winkleblech had decided to concentrate on track full time, Koot believes he might be destined for great things, as well.
“It would seem like he could go below 10.5, and then he’d be just as big of a track recruit as he was in baseball. He’s got a lot of speed, but he’s very raw,” Koot said.
Winkleblech attended Canon-McMillan’s prom last Friday and will graduate in 10 days. And once Canon-McMillan’s baseball season is over, it’s more baseball for Winkleblech, who will play in a college summer league in Myrtle Beach.
But first things first, and for Winkleblech, it will be a week that likely few others have ever experienced. He just hopes to enjoy it because, like just about everything else he does, it will probably go really fast.
Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at email@example.com.