PAT CHRISTENSEN played a couple of sports as a young athlete and, ironically, baseball wasn't his strength.

Christensen, who participated in both soccer and baseball, was on the verge of calling it quits on the diamond when he received some advice from his parents, Patrick and Mary Beth.

"They told me to try pitching for a year," he said. "So I tried that out and it worked out pretty well.

"I wasn't very good at hitting when I was younger and it frustrated me. I moved on to pitching. You have a lot more control over things, so that's why I liked it. It came more natural to me than anything else."

Christensen took his parents' advice and thrived and now is widely regarded as one of La Salle University's best-ever closers. The senior has 44 career saves, fifth most in Division I history.

The sixth-seeded Explorers (24-27, 15-10 A-10) will begin Atlantic 10 tourney play at 5 p.m. today against third-seeded Rhode Island (34-22). The tourney is being held at Charlotte.

Christensen is 6-1 with a 2.49 earned run average, with 11 saves, 51 strikeouts, 10 walks and a .234 opponents' batting average. He led the conference in ERA (0.94), saves (10), appearances (15) and games finished (15). Major league teams have been scouting him.

Christensen, who is 6-4 and 200 pounds, is a native of La Jolla, Calif., where he attended La Jolla High and excelled as a pitcher. In a program that dates more than 90 years, the righthander set the varsity career wins record with 23 to go along with a .742 winning percentage, second all-time at the school.

After enjoying such success, Christensen began his quest of selecting a college. His recruitment with La Salle began when his mother made a phone call to La Salle head coach Mike Lake.

Lake was interested and invited him into the city for an official visit. Christensen, who also was looking into other schools such as Indiana University, was interested in a business program where he could play Division I baseball right away. After visiting the campus and the city, Christensen had his mind made up.

"La Salle stood out as the best opportunity," said Christensen, who is a two-time Big 5 scholar athlete of the year and majors in accounting and finance. "The business school was a great reason to come here, but I knew I was going to get a chance to play. I knew I could prove myself. It was also a chance for me to grow up for me as a man. Moving to Philadelphia, I had to grow up pretty quickly and I think that's done a lot of good for me."

In 2012, Christensen set an Explorers, A-10 and Big 5 record with nine saves while making a team-high 25 appearances and walking only eight batters. Christensen also recorded a 2.66 ERA to go along with 54 strikeouts in 44 innings.

"I want the ball, I want to be in the game," Christensen said. "I have the mentality where I'm focusing on the now. I have that fighting mentality where I want to be in every game I can possibly be in."

When the game is on the line, Christensen primarily relies on his two-seam fastball, which is clocked between 86-89 mph. Lake said Christensen's low ERA will hopefully help him accelerate to the next level.

"We know quite a few guys who throw a 90 mile-an-hour fastball, but whose ERAs are always in the fives and sixes," Lake said. "His ERA is always in the one and twos. That's the difference. I hope that at the end of this year, Pat does get the opportunity to play at the next level.

"Whatever he does, he does it well and he does it with a lot of passion. He's the kind of guy you're looking for. You don't replace players and characters like that."