WEST POINT, N.Y. — Kris Lindner has made a seamless transition to Division I baseball.
The former West Carteret standout has shined in his first season at Army, ranking among the team’s top batters and earning a Patriot League Rookie of the Week honor.
Lindner is second on the Black Knights in average (.301), third in on-base percentage (.394) and fourth in slugging (.366). He’s smacked three doubles and a home run, registered 13 RBIs and 22 runs. The infielder is 10-for-11 in stolen bases and has committed just three errors in 30 games.
“I wasn’t too sure about what to expect. I knew it would be faster,” Lindner said. “And that has definitely been the case. Everybody throws faster, the runners are faster, and the pitchers are faster. But the game is still the same. You still play it the same way.”
Lindner’s batting average would place him 12th in the Patriot League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
He missed the first nine games of the season with back spasms but hasn’t missed a beat since. Army went 9-2 in his first 11 games in uniform and is currently riding its second six-game win streak of the year going into this weekend’s rivalry series at Navy.
For the first time this season, the Black Knights will appear on national television when CBS Sports Network carries the first game of a series that also carries playoff implications.
Army, 28-12 overall, 11-4 conference, has already clinched a spot in the Patriot League Tournament. With two more wins, it can earn home field for at least the first round series on May 10-11, and hit 30 wins, a mark the squad has topped five times since 2004.
Navy enters the weekend 22-23 overall and in third place in the Patriot League with an 8-8 mark.
Army and Navy will play doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday with the first game on both days beginning at noon at Max Bishop Stadium at Annapolis, Md.
Bucknell holds a half-game lead over Army with a 12-4 mark entering this weekend. The top four teams qualify for the Patriot League Tournament with the higher seed hosting the best-of-three series. The Patriot League Championship Series is scheduled for May 17-18 with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In addition to playoff seeding, the coveted “Star” is on the line as well. The winner of the series is awarded the coveted gold star, which is fastened to the players’ varsity jackets. If each team wins two games, the victor of the first game is awarded the star.
Lindner’s mother, Terry, is making the trip to watch her son play. His father, Chuck, older brother, Chuckie, and high school guidance counselor, Robert Lancaster, will make the long trip to West Point on Friday, May 2, to watch Army host Cincinnati in the first-ever night game at historic Johnston Stadium at Doubleday Field.
The field is named after Abner Doubleday, a member of the West Point Class of 1842. He is said to have devised the game of baseball while on leave from the U.S. Military Academy. The field, which began holding games in 1909, was dedicated in his honor in 1939, the centennial year of baseball. It was recently ranked the third-best setting in Division I baseball by CollegeBaseballToday.com.
The Black Knights are listed among those teams receiving votes in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) national poll. Army is the lone team from the Patriot League represented in the poll. The last time Army was listed among the national rankings was a stretch of seven weeks in 2012.
While Lindner and the rest of the team have succeeded on the field this season, the Morehead City native has tried to acclimate to a different climate and a different lifestyle.
The Black Knights were 21 games into the season before they played their first home game.
“The summer here was nice, the weather was pretty good, it was comparable to home,” Lindner said. “The winter has not been. It was awhile before we could practice outside or play a home game. Lots and lots of snow. Just walking to class, you had to be careful not to slip on the ice. It wasn’t fun at all.”
Staying steady on his feet isn’t the only requirement of Lindner when he’s outside at the U.S. Military Academy. He must always cup his hands and isn’t allowed to talk. Those are among the rules for fourth class (freshmen). Plebes must also walk along the walls of the hallways, greet all upperclassmen as they walk by and perform duties at meals.
Each day begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends around midnight after practice and homework.
“It’s a little tough,” he said. “This summer was especially tough. It was difficult getting accustomed to all the rules and standards. They come at you with everything, and it can be overwhelming. I’ve gotten more used to it. Next year should be easier. I’ve only got to do it for another month, so I’m almost there.”
Always a standout student at West Carteret – he sported a 4.62 GPA and ranked 10th in his senior class – Lindner performed well in his first semester, putting up a solid 2.96 GPA while carrying 19.5 credit hours. He’s taking 16.5 credit hours this semester.
“I think I’m doing a little better this semester,” he said. “I’m getting used to the classes.”
Lindner is interested in an engineering major and hopes to pursue a career in aviation.
He considered UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, N.C. State and East Carolina during his senior year at West Carteret but decided the appointment to West Point was too good to pass up.
He batted .470 as a junior at West Carteret and stood near the top of most offensive categories for the Patriots as a senior, including leading the team in runs (26) and stolen bases (11).
The 5-11, 170-pound shortstop also shined on the football field, kicking 59 PATs his junior and senior seasons and expanding his duties as a wide receiver as a senior, leading the squad in both catches (18) and yards (374).