Baseball: Buffalo Grove's Fricke captains Northwest all-area team
Buffalo Grove's Zach Fricke would not endorse the exact method by which he learned to throw his changeup. But having a full repertoire of pitches certainly gave him an edge on the bump.
"I wouldn't recommend it," Fricke said. "Not for my fourth pitch. But it is a pitch that I throw better now than I ever did."
Fricke injured the pinkie finger on his throwing hand during his sophomore year when he was weightlifting for baseball. He was doing squats and when placing the bar and the weights back in the rack, his finger got caught.
"I was doing a new lift and it was first time doing it, and my shoulder kind of popped back," Fricke said. "My finger jammed between the bar and the posts. I pretty much almost lost my pinkie."
After surgery and a recovery process that included a tough basketball season, Fricke found out something new.
"It helps my changeup," said Fricke, who also throws a fastball, curve and slider. "Look, I am gripping it and I get nice movement. It is weird, but it is awesome."
Fricke's change of pace helped him become even a better player. This season he finished 6-1 with an ERA of 2.09 with 55 strikeouts in 47 innings.
Fricke was also a force at the plate. Batting leadoff, he hit .389 with an OBP of .527. He scored 33 runs while driving in 19 with 10 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs for the Mid-Suburban League champions.
In addition, Fricke was voted MSL East player of the year the last two seasons.
His leadership and all-around play have earned him the captaincy of the Daily Herald's Northwest all-area team.
"He is very valuable to us," Buffalo Grove coach Tim Miller said. "He was voted one of our captains, by the players, so that should tell you something."
Miller said that Fricke's versatility sets him apart.
"I think he is a great baseball player, and one of the best two-way players around," Miller said. "Not only is he good with the glove and can pitch, but he is the guy at the top of our order that gets things going."
Fricke had a great season as a junior, earning all-area honors as a shortstop and as a pitcher. He was 6-2 with an ERA of 2.58, hitting .398 while driving in 32 runs and scoring 26 while helping the Bison to a regional title.
Fricke will play next season at Valparaiso and will likely pitch for the Crusaders. But he would also like to have a shot at playing the infield.
"I am a natural shortstop," Fricke said. "I like it. I want to get a chance to hit next year, because I think I am a solid hitter too."
Fricke said that although shortstop may be an easier position to play for him, he still thinks of himself as a pitcher.
"There is a lot less stress playing shortstop than pitching," Fricke said. "When you are pitching, all eyes are on you. It is just a different feeling. But you get to play your game, especially if you have chemistry with your catcher."
Fricke is a three-sport athlete, with golf and basketball rounding out his school year. He was a two-year player on the Bison basketball team and helped them to a 17-10 season last year.
He may get some of that basketball prowess from his father Scott, who is the basketball coach at New Trier. Miller says undoubtedly, Zach Fricke's being around the coaching aspect of the game has aided his play on and off the field.
"It really helps," Miller said. "I can say some things to him that he will understand very well that other players might not get. Zach is also one of our harder workers."
Despite the supersectional loss on Monday to Lake Park, Fricke said this year's Buffalo Grove team was special. The Bison, were MSL champs for the first time since 1978 and finished with a 30-6 mark and regional and sectional titles. That kind of success is bound to leave a mark on the program.
"Being around a group of guys like this is unbelievable," Fricke said. "Having the success we did last year and translate that to this year, I think we are creating a culture at BG -- a winning baseball culture that is awesome."