Steffens, Collison lead Augustana to title

Team won first regular season conference title in school history

—Photo courtesy Jurgens Photography Max Steffens, a former Iowa Central standout, helped lead Augustana to a regular season conference title this past season. Clay Collison, an Algona native, is a graduate assistant on the coaching staff after playing there last season.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Last season, Clay Collison was part of the Augustana University pitching staff that helped deliver the school’s first-ever NCAA Div. II College World Series National Championship.

This year, as a graduate assistant coach, Collison helped the Vikings secure their first-ever Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season title.

“It’s been pretty special to see and be part of what’s going on here,” said Collison, an Algona native who also pitched for Iowa Central. “There’s clearly an amazing culture. It’s definitely been a really special season and it can’t go overlooked at how important the culture has been.”

Part of the group brought in to help replace the likes of Collison and current Iowa Central assistant coach and St. Edmond graduate David Flattery was pitcher Max Steffens.

Steffens, who pitched two seasons at Iowa Central, is 8-0 with seven complete games this year on the mound for Augustana. His 1.51 earned run average is tops in the conference, and the junior has thrown a single-season school record 83-plus innings.

“This season has been an unbelievable experience so far,” Steffens said. “To be part of the team that won the league title for the first time is a testament to how consistent our guys have been this year.”

Steffens noted that his health has been one of the biggest differences from last spring to this one. As a freshman for the Tritons, the DeWitt native was 7-2 with six complete games and 54 strikeouts in just under 72 innings.

His numbers dropped to 5-3 with two complete games and 59 strikeouts in 68 innings last year, as his ERA climbed almost three points.

“I owe my success to finally feeling 100 percent healthy after struggling with issues my sophomore year at Iowa Central,” Steffens said. “Not only that, but taking an analytical approach to pitching such as improving my spin rate for each pitch and tunneling better. With those areas improved, that has helped me fine tune my pitches.”

The honors have already started coming in for Steffens, as he was named NSIC Pitcher of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, earned Gold Glove status and first team all-conference.

Honors have already started coming in for Steffens as he was named the conference pitcher and newcomer of the year, along with earning first team all-league status.

Collison spent two years at Nebraska Kearney after two seasons with Iowa Central. He joined the Vikings and appeared in 12 games with seven starts, going 2-1 with 39 strikeouts in 36-plus innings.

He joined Tim Huber’s coaching staff as he continues to pursue his Master’s in Sports Administration and Leadership after graduating from Augustana with a degree in Sport Management.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries and mishaps this season,” Collison said. “It’s just really impressive to me how it didn’t faze anyone.

“Guys stepped up and got the job done.”

Following the NSIC league tournament, the NCAA Central Region will take place May 16-18 with two winners advancing to a super regional. The NCAA championships are June 1-8 in Cary, N.C.