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Valley's Zalewski on a power trip

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Sunday, April 15, 2012

Zarley Zalewski likes to peruse a bunch of scribbled-on baseballs, which sit neatly on a shelf in a sports collectibles room in the family's basement.

At some point in his playing career, the Valley senior shortstop launched each of the dusty, grass-stained baseballs over a fence. Instantly, they became part of his growing collection of round-trip mementos.

With each visit to the wall's upper deck, the memories rush back, the senses come alive, and of course, Zalewski touches 'em all.

"I have kept every home run ball I have ever hit, unless they went into the woods," Zalewski said. "My dad takes each ball and writes all the details on them. We have a room with a bunch of bobbleheads and the baseballs."

Valley fans have shaken their heads this season with Zalewski's display of power. He hit five homers in Valley's first six games in a span of nine at-bats and has 24 RBI.

He has a bold batting average of .730.

Last year, the fleet-footed Kent State recruit hit .586 with two homers and drove in 26 in 16 games.

Valley hopes he can add to his current tear.

"He hit one to straight-away center at Highlands," Valley coach Bruce Campana said. "The center fielder didn't move, just turned and watched it. Zarley has a pure swing. We're not tweaking anything. What they do with him in college is up to them.

"His focus is unbelievable. He knows what he's looking for, and he's dedicated."

A switch-hitter, Zalewski has four homers from the left side. He had two-homer games against Kittanning and Highlands and added a solo shot against Penn Hills on Tuesday.

One blast at home cleared the right-field fence an estimated 400-plus feet.

"I am right where I wanted to be, right where I expected to be," Zalewski said. "I mean, I am seeing more righties, and I was expecting to hit more for average."

Burrell coach Mark Spohn has worked with Zalewski during the fall season.

"Zarly is a player and a great kid, a class act," Spohn said. "He hits for power from both sides and runs well; very tough out."

Zalewski, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, who spends off days taking batting practice wherever he can find an open cage, recalls his first homer, a zinger over the right-field fence at the Twin Cities' cadet-level field in Arnold.

A rising 8-year-old, Zalewski bombed one onto the roof of a maintenance building in right.

"I hit two that game," he said.

All told, Zalewski said he's hit 23 career homers 11 in high school and seven with a Springdale team last summer in the West Penn Elite League.

Home-run stretches like this are often met with resistance in the form of walks. Zalewski anticipates plenty of free passes in the coming weeks.

"After I hit two (homers) at Highlands, I was walked intentionally twice and didn't see a pitch the rest of the game," Zalewski said. "I'm sure I will see a lot of that in section play."

The long ball may be contagious. Off to one of its best starts in years, Valley (5-3) won five of its first six games and had a share of first place in Section 4-AAA.

Zalewski isn't a lock to get Major League draft attention in June, but teams are sniffing around. The Brewers have asked for Valley's schedule and have come to see him in person, along with the Athletics, Zalewski said. The Pirates, Royals, Rockies and Marlins also have inquired.

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