Nick Metzger wasn’t much of a ballplayer four years ago.
Self-described as “not very good and really slow” during his first year with the Vandals, Metzger didn’t let his lack of ability force him out of the game.
“Coach saw something in me, so I got to play,” he said.
And it was a good thing he had a supportive coach, because the recent Vandalia graduate became an essential player his junior and senior seasons.
At the team’s banquet, coach Luke Hohlt shared some laughs about Metzger’s early career, but added that players like Metzger have helped him learn to never give up on anyone.
“He started out as a goofy freshman and ended up being a nice ballplayer,” Hohlt said. “He stuck with it, and didn’t let the lack of success get him down.”
Metzger was vital to the Vandals’ offense, defense and pitching rotation his senior season, starting all 29 games, including seven from the mound.
He had 23 hits in 83 at-bats – a .271 average – and had a strong middle of the season offensively, going on a six-game hitting streak from April 10-20 and hitting safely in 13 of 17 games from April 3-May 8.
From the hill, he was 1-4 but struck out 38 batters in just 35 2/3 innings. He tossed four innings of one-hit ball in the season-opener and twice struck out seven batters in a game.
Defensively, he committed just four errors, an outstanding number for a first baseman.
“He’s meant tons,” Hohlt said. “He’s a really, really solid kid who did a lot with what he was given.
“I really appreciate all his efforts through the years.”
In addition, he also helped fellow senior Ian Murrell record some pickoffs this season, as his swipe tag was one of the fastest in the area.
Metzger said he and Murrell never practiced the move, saying that it came from being on the field together as starters for two seasons.
“We had a connection, I think,” Metzger said. “Ian and I worked well together.”
Metzger was originally a second baseman, but when he moved to first his sophomore season, he found a home and stayed.
He won’t continue his athletic career at the next level.
Instead, the class salutatorian will focus the next four years on earning a degree in meteorology from the University of Illinois.
“I’ve always loved the weather,” he said. “My parent’s house got hit by a tornado in 1990.
“I wasn’t alive yet. My mom was always freaked out about it, but I started liking it.”