Senior catcher Brian Vance has been playing baseball with Ryan Lin-Peistrup for more than half of his life.

He said he isn’t surprised to see Lin-Peistrup, a senior shortstop and fellow St. Mary of the Woods graduate, make an unbelievable play in the field.

But when Lin-Peistrup chased down and caught a fly ball deep down the line in left field — more than an estimated 100 feet from his position — to conclude Loyola’s 12-5 win over Fenwick at home April 18, Vance admitted he was in awe.

“I thought that’s a foul ball, and no one is getting to that,” Vance said. “But he had the confidence to go after that ball and make the catch. It was obviously one of the better plays I’ve watched him make.”

A former college baseball player and college baseball coach, Loyola head coach Nick Bridich has the credentials to qualify Lin-Peistrup’s catch.

“It was a big-league play,” Bridich said. “He has tremendous instincts, and his aggressiveness allows him to go make plays. What makes him special is the amount of ground he can cover.”

Although he didn’t classify the catch as routine, Lin-Peistrup understated the accomplishment.

“I feel like I can make those kinds of plays,” he said. “I feel like I can make every play.”

Defense is what first attracted Illinois-Chicago to Lin-Peistrup and what ultimately led the Flames to offer him a scholarship last season, according to UIC associate head coach Sean McDermott. Lin-Peistrup signed a National Letter of Intent with the Flames in November.

McDermott knows good defense, too. A former college shortstop, McDermott is in his 18th season at UIC, which has one of the best defenses in the country this season and has a history of producing professional shortstops. This year’s starter, senior Cody Bohanek, is a pro prospect and a potential pick in June’s First-Year Player Draft.

On a recommendation from Bridich, who used to coach with the Flames, John Flood, UIC’s recruiting coordinator, went to watch Lin-Peistrup last season. Flood then urged McDermott to take a look.

“He’s extremely athletic, fearless and plays with instinct,” McDermott said. “He has the ability to really come and get the ball. He’s always moving to catch the ball closer to home plate, which is something we preach. Typically, a high school player plays at the back edge of the grass and relies on arm strength to get guys out. Ryan already plays how we want our shortstops to play.”

McDermott said Bridich has done a good job of teaching infielders an advanced way of playing their positions, and it starts with cultivating a player’s overall athleticism. Bridich said Lin-Peistrup’s football background — he played cornerback for the Ramblers — is a plus.

“Being an athlete comes first,” Bridich said. “The fundamentals and mechanics come second. Ryan is a great athlete who plays shortstop. He’s always on the attack and will never let a ball play him. He’s better than anybody I’ve ever coached at shortstop.”

Through 28 games, Lin-Peistrup has committed nine errors in 103 chances. He’s been party to nine double plays. At the plate, he’s batting .368 with an OPS of .904 and has one home run, 22 RBIs and 27 runs scored.

While he’s good at everything he does, Lin-Peistrup favors defense over offense.

“I like that I can control everything,” he said. “Defense has always been fun for me.”

With the impending departure of Bohanek, Lin-Peistrup will be a candidate for UIC’s starting shortstop position for the 2017-18 season. McDermott said he’s excited for what Lin-Peistrup has to offer the Flames.

“His confidence is overwhelming,” McDermott said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what he can do. He has a chance to be a really good player for us.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola