Norwin's J.J. Matijevic named Greensburg Tribune-Review Baseball Player of the Year
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Norwin, senior, shortstop
It was quite a senior season for Norwin shortstop J.J. Matijevic.
He finished as the WPIAL's triple crown winner by leading District 7 with a .567 batting average, 10 home runs and 37 RBIs, earning him Tribune-Review Baseball Player of the Year honors.
He had 90 RBIs, 88 hits and 18 home runs in 61 career games.
A left-handed hitter, Matijevic recently had quite a career decision to make — play college baseball for Arizona University or begin his professional career in the Boston Red Sox organization.
He was a 22nd round pick of the Red Sox during the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 7.
Matijevic decided last weekend that he will attend Arizona on a scholarship.
“It was very tough decision,” he said. “The Red Sox have been my favorite team and it was an honor to be drafted by them. But I like the atmosphere and coaches at Arizona. Assistant coach Matt Siegel and I have a great bond, and I'm looking forward to playing with my new teammates.
“Hopefully in three years, I get drafted again.”
What stands out in your high school career?
My senior season. I was close with my teammates, we bonded and it was memorable. Playing with those guys, we had a great time even though the season didn't end like we hoped. We enjoyed it. Triple Crown, it's a great feeling and a great accomplishment. I was very surprised to do it.
What do you remember about your first baseball camp?
It was at Westmoreland County Community College. It's where I got started and Coach (Mike) Draghi taught me a lot. He's a great coach and it was a great camp.
Besides baseball and basketball, what other sports did you play?
I played football until my freshman season. I thought about playing as a senior. I would have loved to play middle linebacker. I loved the physical play and hitting people.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I like giving little kids hitting lessons. I wanted to give something back to the community. I like going to the (Baseball) Academy and giving lessons and making them better at hitting. Watch out for Ron Howard, a little lefty. He works hard. Brady Kukich is another hard worker.
What music do you listen to?
I used to listen to rap, but now I switched to county music. My friends would be surprised about that.
Who was someone you looked up to growing up?
(New York Yankees shortstop) Derek Jeter. He's a great leader and a great captain. He'll be missed. That's why I play shortstop in high school. Another person is my uncle (Matt Fajt). We lift together and he's always pushing me.
What's the biggest change in your game since freshman year?
My body, my speed and my foot work. I got a lot stronger and I'm quicker. Those are the biggest differences in my game and it shows.
DREW DeBERRY•LAUREL HIGHLANDS, SR., CF
The Mustangs center fielder, who is undecided about his future, batted .486, with 27 runs scored, 35 hits, 20 RBIs, five doubles, three triples and 19 stolen bases. He helped Laurel Highlands breeze to a section 2-AAA championship this season.
JOEY DeFLORIA•HEMPFIELD, SR., CF
The Bucknell football recruit batted .410 for the WPIAL Class AAAA Section 2 champions. He also had 21 runs, 20 RBIs and three home runs from the leadoff position. DeFloria rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns during football season.
MARC DEMILIO•HEMPFIELD, SR., P
The Gannon University recruit was 6-0 with an ERA of 1.84. He was the top pitcher on the team and helped the Spartans earn the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. He did, however, miss the playoffs because of a late-season arm injury.
JOSH LUKO CALIFORNIA, SR., P/1B
A Cal (Pa.) recruit, Luko was 10-0 with a 0.83 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59 1⁄3 innings for the WPIAL Class A champion. The right-hander allowed only 34 hits and two walks. He threw two no-hitters and two one-hitters and pitched a complete game in the WPIAL final.
MITCH MATLAS•MT. PLEASANT, SR., OF
The Alderson-Broaddus recruit led the Vikings in numerous categories. The two-time Terrific 10 selection batted .389 (21 for 66) and also led the team in hits (21), runs scored (19), doubles (6), home runs (1), stolen bases (7), slugging percentage (.592) and on-base percentage plus slugging (1.063).
MAX PONZURICK•GREENSBURG SALEM, SR., 3B
The Virginia Tech recruit batted .350 and led the Golden Lions with 17 runs scored and 21 RBIs. The infielder had 17 hits, including nine that went for extra bases. He also belted four home runs this season. His on base average was .500.
GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC, JR., CF
The only underclassman on the Terrific 10 team led Greensburg Central Catholic with a .449 batting average. He scored 12 runs and had 22 hits, 16 RBIs, three doubles and 12 stolen bases this season.
tyler smith penn-trafford, sr., P/3B
The Canisius recruit ranked among the WPIAL's pitching and hitting leaders. Smith batted .493 (33 for 67) with five home runs, 20 runs and 35 RBIs. On the mound, he was 6-3 with a 1.51 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 51 innings. In one game, Smith had three hits, a homer, five RBIs and struck out 10 to earn the win.
SEAN THOMPSON•INDIANA, SR., P
The Virginia Commonwealth University recruit batted .446 with 29 hits, 25 RBIs, six doubles and two home runs. He also was 4-1 with a 0.67 ERA, with 62 strikeouts and 11 walks for the Little Indians. A two-time Terrific 10 selection, he hit .414 with 15 RBIs last season.