By Brad Spencer
It's Monday night, May 9, and OPRF baseball coach Chris Ledbetter is at his home computer plugging in stats from games that took place over the weekend. He gets to Zack Weigel's name and he recalls assistant coach Wayne Wente mentioning that the junior may have a hitting streak going. It can't be that extensive a streak if Ledbetter hasn't heard rumblings from his players about it. Weigel sure hasn't mentioned it. Ledbetter crunches the numbers.
What the ...?! Weigel has hit successfully in every game this season!
The next time Ledbetter saw his left-handed centerfielder, he asked him about the streak.
"I just said, 'Hey, Zack, you know you've gotten a hit in every game this season?' and he just replied nonchalantly that he did," said Ledbetter. "He had never said anything about it. He's just there to play. "
Then Ledbetter recalled a game against Proviso West two weeks ago where he wanted all his outfielders to get some quality at bats.
"I remember telling the players everyone was going to play, so the starters would likely come out early. Zack didn't get a hit his first time up, and this is when I had no idea of the hitting streak. In this day and age, a player might insist that he stay in because of something like this. Zack never said a word, but his spot came up again the next inning before I took the starters out. He got a hit."
The hitting streak, which ended at 29 games on Monday, may be the longest in OPRF baseball's history (no one knows for sure). What is for sure is that it's no big deal to Weigel. He's more into winning.
"I'm not going to lie and say it's not in the back of my mind, but once I step into the batter's box, there's a job to do," he says. "I don't step in there thinking I need to keep a streak alive. I step in there thinking I need to get a runner over or I need to draw a walk — whatever the situation calls for. My goal is helping the team out any way I can."
Weigel, who is batting .530 and leading the team in hits with 53, said his teammates were more into keeping the streak alive. "They're more relieved when I get a hit than I am, I think," he said before going 0-for-3 in a 4-2 loss to Hinsdale Central on Monday.
In a game against Addison Trail a few weeks ago, Weigel went hitless until his last at bat when he roped a single to drive in the game-winning run in the eighth inning. It's moments like that where the 17-year-old was able to celebrate the best of both worlds.
"There were no outs. I was just more focused on putting the ball in play so the runner could get to third. I didn't care if I got a hit or not."
So what makes this kid such a good hitter?
"I did a lot of hitting with a personal instructor during the off season, and I've been seeing the ball well," he says. Then he chuckles. "But it's also due to a great deal of luck."
Have a column topic idea that pertains to local sports? Send it to Brad.
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