Last week, Daniel Boone senior Zach Hefner signed his Letter-of-Intent to play baseball for the Crimson Hawks of Indiana University of Pennsylvania next year. It was a little surprising. It wasn't surprising that he will play college ball at IUP, but it is surprising that he signed as a right-handed pitcher.
It's surprising because until this fall, Hefner was an outfielder. He has patrolled the outfield for two years at Daniel Boone, but didn't start pitching until this fall. Once he got on the mound, he immediately saw success, dominating just about every team he faced in fall ball.
“Zach has been a great player for us since his sophomore season,” said Daniel Boone head baseball coach Jason McCord. “He's been an outfielder for us but signed as a pitcher. It's something we always saw in him. It's been really neat to see him make the transformation after he saw that colleges took an interest in him as a pitcher. He started to mentally accept himself as a pitcher, and he just dominated this fall.”
Hefner visited IUP on July 3, not really expecting to play baseball there. He just wanted to go to school. He wanted to play ball, he just didn't believe he was good enough to play at the college level.
“I met coach (Jeff) Ditch (head baseball coach at IUP) and loved the way he runs his program,” said Hefner. “I went to a showcase in Lancaster and he offered me a scholarship. I knew from that point on that IUP was where I wanted to be.”
It was at that point in which Zach really got serious about pitching. He always had a great work ethic, but now he pointed it towards making himself a better pitcher. He then needed to make the mental transition from being an outfielder to a pitcher.
“I just love the game,” he said, “so for me, it was a matter of doing whatever it took to get to the next level. After I got the scholarship offer, I was really excited that I was going to have the opportunity to play baseball for four more years. It doesn't matter to me if I'm in the outfield or on the pitcher's mound. I just what to have the opportunity to help my team win.”
He will have his best chance to contribute to IUP almost immediately as seven IUP pitchers will graduate in the spring of 2014.
Hefner also considered Bloomsburg and Lock Haven as possible destinations, but he felt very comfortable when he visited IUP, and he quickly knew that's where he wanted to be.
Coach Ditch first saw Hefner at the showcase in Lancaster. He was impressed with what he saw.
“His ability as a hitter and potential as a pitcher became evident during the camp and fortunately he was very receptive to us recruiting him as a potential student - athlete,” said Ditch. “Zach was a solid 85 MPH on the mound, and with his athletic body, he has projectable velocity increase as a pitcher. Considering the first class type person he is, I was eager to have him join our team.”
Of course, he still has one more season of high school ball to play. He doesn't want to look too much toward next year when he has a season with the Blazers left to play.
“I'm looking forward to playing with my guys one more year,” said Hefner. “I think we'll be considered an underdog by a lot of teams in the county, but we'll come out with an explosive winning attitude and show a lot of people what baseball is all about.”
It's that kind of winning attitude that has helped to make Hefner the player that he is today. It's that kind of attitude that Coach Ditch saw and wanted on his team. He'll have him there for the next four years.
“It's that mental approach, along with his work ethic and determination that will take him far in college,” said McCord. “I think he'll do great in college ball.”