Matcuk is coming up big at short Mt. St. Joe junior fills hole in infield

April 12, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Mount St. Joseph shortstop Steve Matcuk has gone from junior varsity star to varsity stalwart.

The 17-year-old junior shined as last year's junior varsity MVP, going 7-1 as a pitcher and batting .443 with 29 RBI, nine doubles, two triples and three home runs.

This year's varsity was hit hard by graduation, including Matcuk's predecessor, defensive wizard Brian Dunn, who is a pitcher at the University of Maryland.

Coach David Norton wasn't sure that Matcuk, 6 feet 1, 165 pounds, would be the answer at short.

"That was a big question mark, whether he could fill in there," said Norton, who also considered veteran second baseman Robbie Blaylock for the position.

"We knew he had good junior varsity statistics, but varsity is a big difference," said Blaylock, a senior. "I knew he had a better arm than me, but we didn't know he could field like he has been. He's like a vacuum out there."

The doubts ended after just three games as Matcuk was a major contributor to the Gaels' (3-0) progress, most importantly in last Tuesday's 7-6 upset win over then-third-ranked, Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference runner-up Calvert Hall.

Matcuk -- the No. 6 batter on a hard-hitting squad -- is batting .555 (5-for-9) with four runs scored and four steals. He also has five put-outs and 10 assists and just two errors.

His stats aren't as particularly notable, Norton says, as his playing style and technique are promising.

"What he's shown he's good at is going glove-side and up the middle. He still needs work on communicating with third base, but he's shown he can play with confidence," Norton said. "Here at St. Joe, we've had some great shortstops, like Brian Dunn, Billy Dunn, who was an All-American, and Scott Timmerman, who has been named the best defensive player at Michigan. It looks like Steve could fit right in there."

Norton may be right, considering Matcuk's effort against Calvert Hall, the four-time MSA A champs before being dethroned last year by McDonogh.

Against the Cardinals, Matcuk went 3-for-4 with a double, scoring twice and -- with a put-out and seven assists -- keying an excellent performance by the Gaels' defense.

In the third innning, Matcuk -- ranging to his left and leaning slightly forward -- scooped a deep liner, which he whipped to Blaylock for a double play.

A Cardinals' runner, who had reached on an error by Matcuk, eventually scored, but Matcuk made up for that mistake twofold.

First, he covered second for a put-out when a ground-ball pickup drew Blaylock out of position. And with the game-tying run on base in the seventh, Matcuk threw out the runner at the plate.

"I was a little bit nervous before the game, but after my first pickup, I felt ready for a few liners " said Matcuk, an Anne Arundel County resident who improved his skills playing summer ball for the Pasadena Saints.

"My hitting has really improved this year," said Matcuk, who has a 3.5 grade-point average. "I'm seeing the ball real well and making good contact."

Matcuk made good contact with the soccer ball for the Gaels last fall, earning The Sun's All-Metro and Baltimore County/City Player of the Year honors. He scored 27 goals with 15 assists, raising his career totals to 45 goals, 22 assists, and leading the MSA A Conference semifinalists to a 14-4-1 record.

Since then, he has gained 10 pounds, which has translated into more power at the plate.

"We know he can also pitch a little bit, and he's surprised a lot of the guys already," Blaylock said. "He just has done an excellent job."

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