It is easy to understand why Poly Prep’s Andrew Zapata is the city’s most dominant baseball pitcher without even watching him throw the ball.
The University of Connecticut-bound righty has been untouchable and unflappable through his two varsity seasons. Zapata, who can throw as fast as the low 90s, has lost just once and led the Blue Devils to two consecutive private school state titles by tossing complete game one-hitters in each final.
He’s gotten more praise and more awards than most high school athletes, but he takes all of it in stride. Zapata is not afraid to fail, but doesn’t believe he can truly lose.
“It’s a win-win situation,” he said. “If I do well then I do what was expected. People may say nice things. You know what, if I don’t do well I don’t really care. People can say what they want. I play because I love it, not because I care what other people say about me.”
Zapata said he learns from his mistakes and corrects them. He’s already done that in his new role as team captain and vocal leader, after watching others do it for two years. Zapata said he started out a little too heavy handed with a team that is very young outside of its veteran core.
“At first I was really vocal and I tried to be really hard on the guys,” he said. “We have a very young team, so after a while it really wasn’t working. They had trouble staying focused, so I figured I’d take a little bit of a step back and let them be and let them learn.”
Zapata adapted just like he does on the mound and learned how to lead. Fellow senior Phil Maldari talked about how much Zapata cares for each one of his teammates no matter how young or how much playing time they get. Junior Morgan Gray called him inspirational.
“He’s come out of his shell and become one of the best leaders I’ve had,” Gray said. “When Andy speaks everybody listens.”
When he pitches everyone watches as he masterfully paints the back of the plate with his fastball while mixing in a strong slider and change up. Zapata, like most pitchers, takes great joy in being in control both on the mound and off it. If he continues to do that, the Blue Devils have a good chance of winning a third straight state crown. It’s his turn to lead. This time with more than the skill of his right arm.
“I’m a senior now,” Zapata said. “That’s my job. I have to keep these guys regulated, make sure practice goes smoothly and get the championship in the end.”
He’s certainly off to a good start.Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk