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Zipko rewrites Rebels’ record book for saves
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Adam Zipko knows his stuff may never reach 90 miles per hour on a radar gun.
That, however, means absolutely nothing about his effectiveness as a right-handed pitcher.
Just ask his opponents in the Valley Baseball League, a summer collegiate wooden-bat league in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.
Taking the bump for the New Market Rebels, the 2010 Warwick High School grad, capitalizing on three pitches with a lot of movement, has recorded 36 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA in 23 innings this summer.
On Monday night, Zipko also notched his team-record 17th save in a 4-1 Rebels’ victory over the Staunton Braves in the opener of a best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series. That is four more saves than New Market’s previous single-season mark of 13, set by Brandon ‘Cotton’ Dickson in 2006. Dickson later signed with St. Louis as an amateur free agent and appeared in eight games with the Cardinals in 2011-12.
"It means a lot," Zipko said of breaking the record. "It’s an honor to be put in the same name as (Dickson). I know he’s been successful in his career."
Zipko, a rising senior at Millersville University, and former Lampeter-Strasburg star Ray Lopez, a sophomore-to-be at Virginia Military Institute, are staying together at the host family house of Marie and Walter Maybaum. During post-game dinners, the Maybaums provided Zipko with regular updates of the record chase.
"They’d let me know each night as I got close," Zipko said. "There were a few announcements on Facebook and Twitter about it, so it was real special. It meant a lot to the people around the team and the organization."
Something that would mean a lot to New Market now is a league championship. The Rebels, who finished second in the South Division standings with a 28-15 record, needed to win Tuesday night in the deciding game against against third-place Staunton, who tied the series with a 5-4 win in 11 innings on Monday night. Mark Stuckey, a 2009 Warwick grad, also played in 16 games for the Rebels this summer, but unfortunately, his season was cut short due to a hamstring injury.
The winner of that series will advance to the league playoff semi-finals to face the fourth-place Waynesboro Generals, an upset winner over the Harrisonburg Turks, who won the South Division regular-season championship.
"I feel like we’re peaking at the right time here," Zipko said. "You always want to be playing your best baseball toward the end of the year and into the playoffs and I feel like we’re doing that. Hopefully we can continue this run and take the championship."
Zipko, a sidearm pitcher, is certainly doing his part. Already throwing a two-seam fastball that cuts in on righty batters and a frisbee-like slider, the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder has further developed his change-up this summer with the Rebels. With repetition, that third pitch has become a weapon which he can use against left-handed hitters.
"in the fall last year, our pitching coach (at Millersville) helped me start throwing (the change-up) more often and I threw it a little bit in the spring at school, but not a whole lot," Zipko said. "This summer, I really wanted to work on developing it more, getting a chance to throw every day. So I’ve been throwing it a lot in games and it’s a good pitch to help get lefties out for me. As I’ve been able to throw it more, it’s been able to work itself out more, especially in game situations. It’s a little bit different than in a bullpen situation. It’s a lot nicer to have games that I can throw it in to get that repetition of actually throwing it to a batter live in a game."
In his high school career at Warwick, he proved to be a mismatch for a lot of batters, going 8-3, 1.78 ERA with three shutouts and 76 strikeouts in 67 innings in his senior season with the Warriors.
Upon going to Millersville, he made the transition to the bullpen, pitching as a set-up reliever in his first two seasons with the Marauders before taking over the closer’s role as a junior. He anchored MU’s bullpen this spring with a team-high 24 appearances and was perfect in save opportunities, leading the PSAC and recording the fourth-most saves in MU history with nine saves as the Marauders captured the PSAC East Division crown and advanced to the NCAA Atlantic Regional.
A consummate team player, Zipko’s adjustment from being an ace starter at Warwick to a lock-down reliever for the Marauders was a seamless one.
"My mindset wasn’t really to change anything the way I approached pitching," he said. "I still try to fill up the strike zone and I feel that’s one of the most important things a relief pitcher can do out of the bullpen is just to throw strikes. So I took that same mentality that I took from school throwing at Warwick and just brought it to the bullpen, just to try to fill up the zone."
Although Zipko would like his walks (10) to be lower, there is no arguing his impressive numbers as the Rebels’ closer which includes just 12 hits allowed in 23 innings. He was one of four New Market pitchers – six players total – selected to the Valley League’s All-Star Game, in which he induced both batters he faced into ground ball outs.
Of all his stats, his 17 saves are what means most to him.
"I feel saves are a team-oriented stat," Zipko said. "A good team will win close ball games, and I feel like the saves show that. My job is basically to come in in the ninth inning and finish out the win that the rest of the guys have earned. So I come in and hope to shut the door to get the win that those guys deserve."
Asked if he considers it a big deal to maintain his 0.00 ERA, Zipko said, "Yeah, I mean, you always look as a pitcher to go in and not give up any runs. It’d be pretty cool to come out of the summer with a 0.00 ERA, but in the end, we’re just looking to win the whole championship down here."
Zipko’s goals are similar for his senior season at Millersville. After winning the PSAC East for a third time under skipper Jon Shehan and advancing to the NCAA Division-II Tournament for a second time in the last three this past spring, the Marauders are looking to build on their success in 2014.
"I’d say my team goals are obviously to win the College World Series," Zipko said. "At Millersville, we have a shot at doing that every year and that’s always our goal from the beginning. We take it day by day, try to get better every single day, every single rep on the field and in the weight room, just to try to reach that ultimate goal at the end to win the World Series. As far as individual goals, I’m looking to be a leader on the pitching staff and to help lead our younger pitchers, show them what college baseball is all about and hopefully lead us to a successful year."
Zipko’s former MU teammate Tim Mayza, a junior All-America selected, was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft in June. Time will tell whether Zipko is able to follow in his footsteps in 2014.
"it’s always a player’s dream to be able to get drafted," said Zipko, a Daktronics All-Atlantic Region Second-Team selection as a junior. "Marc Shoenfelt from B2B has talked with me and I know that scouts always love to see the 90 miles per hour on the radar gun and I know I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be hitting that. So I just try to go out there and show that you don’t really have to be throwing hard to get guys out."
More ZIPKO, page B-3