The Wright State baseball team cheered as it was announced they would play Stanford in the NCAA tournament.
The trip to California will be a first for Raider outfielder Zach Weatherford, but he is already pretty used to covering a lot of ground in the confines of his home field, Nischwitz Stadium.
Tracking down fly balls in the depths of a deep field like The Nisch can be an arduous task. The Raiders have mastered this skill as the fifth-ranked team in the nation in team fielding percentage (.982).
With his ability in the outfield, Weatherford is no exception. He credits this to being dedicated in the weight room, coaching and practice routines such as running down fly balls shot by the pitching machine.
“It starts to become muscle memory once you do it a lot. I’ve been working on it everyday at practice with coach Mercer,” Weatherford said. “He tells me to get in the weight room, helps me with my nutrition and first step reads and as a group teaches us the right way to play outfield.”
“We try to think of baseball like an equation and find the guys that have the ability to play the best defense. Zach is a world-class runner,” WSU Head Coach Jeff Mercer said. “The thing that makes him special defensively is that he has great instincts and can read the ball off the bat well. Every rep he takes in practice is with great intent and anticipation.”
Under the tutelage of assistant coach Matt Talarico, WSU is also an above average threat on the base paths. Weatherford has the second most stolen bases on the team (18). His offensive prowess is also evident at the plate.
“He has great bat speed and an ability to hit the ball to all fields. The way he gets out of the box and can run puts a lot of pressure on defenses,” Mercer said.
Weatherford put his batting talents on display in the 11-9 Horizon League tournament clinching game against the University of Illinois Chicago on May 26. This included a seventh-inning home run that pulled the Raiders within a run, which was soon followed by the go-ahead two-run homer WSU outfielder Peyton Burdick hit.
“That was probably the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of. It was honestly the best moment of my life,” Weatherford said.
“What he (Weatherford) did in the conference tournament is a sign of what’s to come from him offensively. In a lot of ways, he carried us to that championship,” Mercer said. “He is a better offensive player than he even realizes. When he realizes how special he is, he is going to do some incredible things for us.”
Being lightly recruited by other schools has given Weatherford added motivation to prosper on the field. These are the types of players Mercer often looks for during the recruiting process.
“A lot of our guys come in with an edge and something to prove. Zach was no different,” Mercer said. “I like tough and hard-nosed kids. Those are the guys that know how to work.”
Much like he is fearless when running down the ball in the outfield, Weatherford is not afraid of playing a team like Stanford.
“I’m ready to shock the world. A mid-major team can compete with anybody,” Weatherford said.
Story by Alan Hieber. Get more Wright State University sports information at wsuraiders.com.
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