Matijevic commits to national champs
Norwin has been one of the WPIAL's top baseball programs over the past few years, and now Knights junior J.J. Matijevic is on his way to one the country's top college programs.
Matijevic, the Knights' starting shortstop and leader in most offensive categories last year, made a verbal commitment earlier this month to play his college ball for the University of Arizona, the 2012 NCAA champions.
With the verbal commitment, Matijevic joins senior teammate Jake Pribanic, a Penn State signee, as Division I recruits from a Knights program that sent four 2012 graduates to D-I schools.
“The competition out west is amazing, and I hope to be able to contribute to their program,” Matijevic said. “The weather's perfect there, the coaches are great, and obviously as national champions, their baseball team is legit.”
Matijevic landed on the Wildcats' radar after attending an event in California last August. From that point, Arizona's coaches stayed in touch with Matijevic, and after he attended the team's camp this fall, a scholarship offer came soon afterward.
“I called them after the camp, they offered me, and I accepted right away,” Matijevic said. “I hope to help them win another national championship when I'm out there.”
The Wildcats were the only Pac-12 Conference team that had offered Matijevic when he accepted, but he had been in contact with many top east coast programs, including Florida State, Connecticut, Ole Miss, Penn State, Pitt and Coastal Carolina.
Arizona's coaches have indicated to Matijevic that he fits into their plans more as a first baseman than as a middle infielder, which means the junior will have some work to do to make the defensive adjustment at the next level.
“They've told me there's a chance I could be starting as a freshman, but I have to work a lot at that position,” Matijevic said.
“This summer was the first time I really played first base, so there's always room for improvement. Playing shortstop in high school helps my footwork a lot, but I'll still need to work a lot at first.”
The junior's hitting is one of the things that most appealed to Arizona's coaches, as Matijevic hit .473 during his sophomore high school season with six home runs, 35 RBI and 22 runs scored on his way to being named Tribune-Review Player of the Year.
Matijevic still sees room for growth in his own game, and even though he has his college plans tentatively settled — he can't officially sign until next year — there are individual goals for the junior to reach.
“It's every kids dream to get drafted out of high school,” Matijevic said. “That's still a goal of mine. Now that I have my college plans set, that's what I'm working on now.”
Matijevic and teammate Pribanic do have the luxury of getting a peek at Division I baseball life from their varsity teammates from last spring, and the Norwin shortstop made sure his friends and former teammates were the first to know of his college decision.
“I talk to those guys all the time. I've talked to Tommy (Quealy) a lot. They were the first people I talked to after I accepted the offer,” Matijevic said.
“When they came home over Thanksgiving, they were telling me what it was like in college. They let me know it's going to be hard, but they've given me a heads-up about what I can expect.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.