GROVE CITY — Things have not always gone Max Vickerman’s way on the baseball field.
Before his senior season at Seneca Valley, he was cut. Last season as a junior at Grove City College, he and his teammates had one of the most trying years any NCAA Division III club has had to endure.
Now a senior, Vickerman is motivated to put all of those struggles behind him.
“One of the things you have to do as a pitcher is never get rattled,” Vickerman said. “Never show you are rattled and that’s something I did last year and something I have been determined to improve upon.”
Vickerman has had reason to be rattled in his career.
He was a standout pitcher when he was younger in the Seneca Valley baseball system, but struggled during tryouts and didn’t make the team.
“I had a terrible week of tryouts. I wasn’t focused and I took it a little bit for granted,” Vickerman said. “I ended up walking over to the stadium, joined the track team and threw the javelin and had a blast, but baseball was, and still is, my No. 1 love. It taught me to never let my guard down.”
Vickerman was welcomed into the Grove City College baseball program and was a big part of the Wolverines’ Presidents’ Athletic Conference and Eastern College Athletic Conference championships as a reliever in 2011.
Things unraveled quickly for Grove City last season, however.
Two starting pitchers went down with season-ending injuries and the club’s ERA ballooned to 9.40 — 352nd out of 363 Division III schools in the country. The Wolverines finished 7-29.
Vickerman, though, was one of the bright spots, leading the team in wins (four), innings pitched (57 1/3) and complete games (five).
“He was a very bright spot, a shining star, in what was a dismal season,” said Grove City College baseball coach Rob Skaricich. “He comes out and works hard every single day.
“Last year due to injury he really stepped it up,” Skaricich added. “He had an opportunity to become a starting pitcher after being a very good reliever for us and, other than a couple of rough outings, he was great.”
Vickerman had two starts in which he was tagged for 17 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. Toss those games out and the right-hander had a 4.75 ERA.
He’s not overpowering — he struck out just 15 batters last season — but has good command of a low-80s fastball to go along with a good changeup and slider.
Vickerman closed the season with a pair of complete-game wins in his final two starts.
“A majority of my starts were good,” Vickerman said. “I just had a couple of really bad outings. My main goal this year is to me more consistent. I will take consistency over anything.”
Vickerman is the anchor to the staff again this season, which has gotten much better.
The Wolverines’ team ERA is 2.45. Vickerman has not given up an earned run.
“Max ... I just love him,” Skaricich said. “He has really become a leader.”
Skaricich wants to forget about last season.
“They just want to put last year behind them,” the coach said. “They have something to prove and I can see it in what they do every day.”
Vickerman, though, likes to remember it so he doesn’t experience it again.
“I would definitely call it a silver lining,” Vickerman said. “All the guys have come back more determined and motivated.”