Zach Lopatka wasn’t sure where he was going to play college baseball following a successful career at Wyoming Area. Soon enough, however, Lackawanna College coach Bruce Thompson came calling.
Through the first several weeks of the season, that call has paid off for Thompson and the Falcons.
Lopatka, a 2015 Wyoming Area graduate, was named the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Baseball Athlete of the Week for his performance during a seven-game stretch. In 20 at-bats, Lopatka hit .400 with four doubles and two home runs. He also drove in seven runs and scored nine times.
Lopatka was the winning pitcher in the second game of a doubleheader against Queensborough Community College. In that contest, he tossed 5.1 innings, yielding two runs on four hits. He struck out seven.
As a freshman, Lopatka feels comfortable playing at the college level.
“That was a great accomplishment,” he said. “Obviously, you should never he satisfied. Even though that happened we can still build on it. There’s always something to work on and get better.”
Coming out of Wyoming Area, Lopatka said he was looking at several Division 2 colleges to continue his baseball career. He gravitated toward Lackawanna because he knew the program has made a name for itself. He said Thompson called and told him he would be pitching and playing the outfield.
“Coming out of high school I wanted to play college baseball,” Lopatka said. “I didn’t know where to go, but coming here was more of a last-minute decision. When I got here and met the players and coaches I fell in love with it.”
Through 19 games this season, the team’s No. 3 hitter has helped Lackawanna to a 10-8 record. He’s done it with his bat and his arm.
At the plate, Lopatka is hitting .339 with a .466 on-base percentage. His 12 RBI rank him second on the team and his eight doubles lead the team. So far, he’s hit two home runs, tied for the top spot on the team. His .576 slugging percentage is best on the team.
Lopatka never hit a home run at the varsity level at Wyoming Area.
“I really don’t know (what changed),” he said of the long ball. “I’ve been working really hard.”
On the mound, Lopatka has started four games and has a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings. His opponents’ batting average sits at just .253. He has one win and two losses.
“That’s the type of kid he is,” Thompson said of Lopatka’s ability to switch positions frequently. “He’s becoming a leader by example. He gets (to the field) early and is always hustling and doing the little things.”
When Lopatka showed up on campus last fall, Thompson said he already had a solid skillset. Over the last couple months, however, he’s been able to improve his confidence at the plate and on the mound.
“I think he’s starting to come into his own,” Thompson said.
From a team standpoint, the Falcons are on a six-game winning streak heading into a doubleheader with Luzerne County Community College on Saturday, March 26 in Nanticoke.
Lopatka said the team is starting to feel comfortable.
“We’re feeling better,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement. With this team we have a chance to keep winning and moving forward.”
Lopatka is the son of Gary and Wendy Lopatka, Exeter. He currently carries a 3.8 grade-point average and said the transition to college academics was difficult, but doable. After two years, Lopatka will need to finish his degree at another institution. He hopes to continue to play baseball.
“It’s definitely a little bit hard with all the practices and games,” he said of the academic side of his freshman year. “Your whole day is eaten up by that. Study halls help us get everything done.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick