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Rory Ziomek makes name for himself with clutch pitching performances

Rory Ziomek, of Amherst, pitched for Phillips Andover Academy this spring. Ziomek capped his summer with a Tri-County League championship with PeoplesBank. He will pitch for Tufts next spring.

Rory Ziomek, of Amherst, pitched for Phillips Andover Academy this spring. Ziomek capped his summer with a Tri-County League championship with PeoplesBank. He will pitch for Tufts next spring. Purchase photo reprints »

Baseball fans in the area are certainly familiar with Rory Ziomek’s last name. But he’s made sure people become aware of his first name as well.

Yet another member of Amherst’s first family of baseball has established himself following an outstanding prep school pitching career with Phillips Andover Academy.

It’s difficult to top how Ziomek capped his three-year career at Andover. He finished the regular season with three consecutive complete-game shutouts and a scoreless innings streak of 22.

“Rory’s progress has been astounding,” Andover coach Kevin Graber said. “He has charged ahead with his own skill set and willed himself to success. He really is an amazing kid and an awesome baseball player.”

The third shutout was a play-in game Big Blue needed to win to qualify for the postseason. Ziomek then earned a save with two innings of relief in the Central New England Prep semifinal win over top-seeded Deerfield. Andover won its second straight league championship and ninth overall.

“I’ve worked a lot on my mound presence, keeping my composure in check at all times,” he said. “I learned to have a short memory, to move on from whatever happened, good or bad. Being able to block out distractions and adversity allowed my abilities to take over in those pressure scenarios.”

In the 2012 Central New England title game, Ziomek pitched a complete game and got the win with 11 strikeouts and no walks.

This season Ziomek allowed just 24 hits and struck out 53 batters in 381∕3 innings. He compiled an earned run average of 1.46 and an opponent batting average of .174, and was named Central New England Prep MVP and a Boston Globe All-Scholastic.

Ziomek credits all his prep accolades to Graber, who previously served as an assistant at Amherst College and coached Rory’s older brother and Detroit Tigers prospect Kevin Ziomek on the Amherst Mickey Mantle team.

“Coach Graber is an amazing coach and getting a chance to work with him every day really changed my outlook on baseball,” Rory Ziomek said. “I owe so much to him, especially with altering my mental approach and helping me with my mechanics, which showed up in the results on the field.”

Using both a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, which tops out in the mid-to-upper 80s, plus a slider and changeup, Ziomek possesses strikeout stuff when he needs it. But he’s most comfortable keeping the ball low and pitching to contact.

Even though their pitching styles are somewhat different, Rory called Kevin a mentor both inside and outside the white lines.

“We have a great relationship,” Rory said. “A lot of our conversations are about baseball, especially during the season when we bounce ideas off each other. Since he went through the college recruitment process already, he could help me with that. But we’re brothers so we talk about plenty of other things as well. He’s obviously really busy and we don’t see each other often, so it’s great when we get an opportunity to hang out.”

After completing his sophomore year at Amherst Regional, Rory Ziomek chose to leave his hometown and join friend and fellow Amherst native Seamus O’Neil at Andover in 2011. He repeated his sophomore year and played three seasons for Big Blue.

“Seamus loved the school and he talked to me about it,” Ziomek said. “I looked into Andover and learned that Coach Graber coached Kevin and helped him a lot. I didn’t really know much about Andover the school, but once I got there I worked my hardest and it all fell into place for me. Starting over at a new school was tough, but having a buddy there and knowing how good Coach Graber was made it much easier.”

Over the three seasons, Ziomek compiled a 10-6 record and four saves with a 1.48 ERA. He struck out 118 and walked 49. In 2011 and 2013 he posted a sub-.200 batting average against and didn’t allow a single home run.

In his one varsity appearance as a sophomore for the Hurricanes in 2010, Rory allowed a single earned run in five innings to earn a win over Holyoke that clinched a postseason berth for the eventual state champions.

“It was pretty neat to get called up for that spot start, especially since it was the clincher,” he said. “What made it really special was to play with my brother and to have him watch me pitch. Everyone on the team was really supportive, and seeing that team put it together was an awesome experience.”

Another productive experience came this summer as Ziomek continued his string of clutch performances by helping lead PeoplesBank to the regular season and tournament titles in the Tri-County League. He allowed no runs in winning the clinching games in the semifinal and final series.

“All the guys on my team played in college, so it was great to learn from them,” he said. “Everyone on the team was very supportive of the younger guys, and watching those guys play inspired me. They only play now in the summer and they’re out there for the love of the game. I wanted to work on some things, but we were also able to win, which made it that much better of an experience.”

With an assortment of successes to draw from, Ziomek now takes his baseball career to the collegiate level at Tufts University.

“Rory was not recruited by the Vanderbilts of the world, but Tufts is a great fit for him,” Graber said. “Rory is competitive, polished and a winner. I’ve managed in professional baseball, coached in the college ranks and have worked in pro scouting. Rory is among the top one percent of players I’ve coached in terms of competitive nature, work ethic, and tenacity.”

Ziomek is simply appreciative of the chance to continue playing the game.

“I want to try to ride it out as much as I can,” Ziomek said. “I’m going to work as hard as I possible can and do whatever I can to make an impact immediately. I’m not sure what the coaching staff has planned for me the first season.”

And while he holds dreams to join his big brother in the professional ranks, at the very least Ziomek will have other opportunities open to him in part because of baseball.

“I would love to play at that level, but I know it will be much more difficult coming from a Division III college,” he said. “I know I need to work just as hard in the classroom to set myself up in case baseball doesn’t work out.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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