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Male Athlete of the Week

| Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Neil Walker

  • School: Pine-Richland

  • Class: Senior

  • Position: Catcher

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Notable: Walker hit .714 in two playoff games last week to power Pine-Richland to its first WPIAL baseball title. He went 3 for 4 in a 9-1 victory over Kiski Area in the semifinals Monday, and went 2 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBI in the 8-1 victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA title game at Falconi Field on Saturday.

    For his efforts, Walker is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Male Athlete of the Week.

    Walker is batting .786 (11 for 14) with three home runs in four playoff games. His first-inning double gave Pine-Richland the lead for good against defending champion North Allegheny. The Clemson recruit also was the winning pitcher in the wild 11-9 quarterfinal victory over Latrobe.

    Walker, one of the nation's most coveted high school players, will lead Pine-Richland into the PIAA playoffs for the first time June 7. Earlier in the day, he is expected to be a high-round pick in the major-league draft.

    Walker was a two-way standout on the Rams' WPIAL champion football team. Pine-Richland became the first school since North Allegheny in 1990-91 to win big-school WPIAL titles in football and baseball in the same academic year.

    "I'm going to always cherish these years," Walker said.

    Rams coach Jeff Rojik said Walker is more than a 6-foot-3, 205-pound, switch-hitting catcher with excellent speed and a strong arm.

    "More than his athletic ability, which you obviously can't take away, it's his attitude and desire to win and knowing how to win," Rojik said. "He wants to be the person in the clutch situation. Some people might shy away and just hope that it happens. Neil wants to do everything."

    Walker deflected the credit to his teammates.

    "It's easy to be relaxed on this team," he said. "I know I have someone batting behind me, and we all pick each other up. I have confidence in myself, and I have confidence in my teammates."

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