SIOUX CITY – A simple approach at the plate has allowed Matt Nelson to flourish in his final prep baseball campaign.
The Bishop Heelan senior is currently leading the Missouri River Conference in hits with 49 and has hit safely in 25 of the 30 games he’s played this season.
“My approach when I go up there is hit it hard somewhere, every time,” said Nelson. “If I get out than I know that I hit it hard, I can’t be mad at that.
“Just hit it hard and hopefully it finds a gap. It’s been working so I’m not going to change anything.”
The Sioux City Journal’s Metro Athlete of the Week had 13 hits in nine games a week ago and enters Tuesday’s crucial MRAC twin bill against rival Sergeant Bluff-Luton with a .462 average, fifth-best in the MRAC.
“His approach at the plate is really good,” said Heelan coach Andy Osborne. “He has really good plate discipline as far as he knows the strike zone, he doesn’t swing at a ton of bad pitches, he definitely capitalizes on hitters counts.
“When he gets a good pitch to hit he doesn’t miss it, that’s basically been his thing his whole career.”
The versatile defender for the Crusaders and son of Rick and Sandy Nelson has 17 multi-hit games this season and as a middle-of-the-order hitter ranks second in the MRAC with 34 RBIs.
Nelson has played every position defensively this season except catcher and even owns a 2-0 pitching mark in 16 innings of work for a Heelan team that is 19-11 overall and 10-6 in the MRAC.
“He has just been invaluable at the plate, hitting in the middle of the order, plus for us he plays all over the field,” said Osborne. “He is kind of a Swiss Army Knife for us, anything we need he can do for us. Even better he is our cleanup batter and drives in runs.”
Nelson, a three-year varsity contributor for the Crusaders, enjoyed a strong junior campaign where he finished in the top five in the MRAC in four offensive categories, hits, doubles, RBIs and average. He opened this year by going 7-for-8 in a doubleheader against West.
He is protected in the Heelan lineup by a pair of juniors in Jackson Boever (.379) and Hunter Hope (.354).
“Pitching against our lineup would be pretty hard, you’re going to have to pitch around just about everyone,” said Nelson. “Pitchers in high school, you know you’re going to get a fastball sometime, once you get that you hit it hard.”
Nelson’s tremendous plate discipline has allowed him to quietly move up the Heelan school career charts where his current .397 career average ranks sixth all time. Despite being only a three-year performer his 129 career hits already rank 10th on the school’s career list.
“He has been a tremendous hitter his entire career since he joined us as a sophomore,” said Osborne.
A quiet leader on the field the future Iowa State Cyclone has decided not to play baseball in college and instead be a student, studying business.
“He is a lead-by-example kid,” said Osborne. “He is a really quiet kid, you’re not going to get a ton of stuff out of him. He just basically does just about everything right. He runs the bases well, his physical strength and his arm strength has improved. It’s paid off for him on the mound.
“Kid is a competitor who really enjoys the game. Every year he has improved, and this year really been a fun summer for him because he has hit so well.”
The only thing left for Nelson and this senior class is a return to Des Moines and the state tournament.
“That means everything to us,” he said. “We ended last year in Des Moines, not the way we wanted too, but it was awesome to get there. Just being there proves that we can go there again, hopefully end the season on a win down there.”
Trenton Frerichs, North....Sophomore went 12-for-21 with 10 RBIs in seven games last week.
Kami Schlag, Sergeant Bluff-Luton...Senior hit two home runs and drove in three in a MRAC win over North.