Baseball has become a way of life for Esteban Meletiche.
A Northeast Philadelphia native, Meletiche has endured a grueling schedule this spring at Keystone College in La Plume, Pa. He plays in the Collegiate Baseball League throughout the summer months and trains regularly throughout the rest of the year.
Yes, Meletiche is consumed by baseball.
And that’s just the way he likes it.
“I like to play every day. If they made a schedule where every day we had a game, I would take it,” said Meletiche, a junior at Keystone College. “I like playing baseball, so I liked the busy schedule.”
The Giants certainly kept busy this spring — going 38-12 overall en route to their first NCAA Division III regional crown in school history and a berth in the College World Series, which was held in Appleton, Wis., from May 27 to 31.
“The World Series was the best thing ever. I never experienced anything like that,” said Meletiche. “I’ve never seen anything more exciting. I loved everything about it — the atmosphere, the fans, signing autographs. It was very special to me.”
The Giants advanced quickly in the championship tournament, defeating Western New England College, 2-1, in the first round. Pitcher Jeff Frost tossed a complete game, allowing only one run on 11 hits for the win. Meletiche had a pair of hits, including an RBI.
Keystone College fell in the second round, 8-5, to Buena Vista University. The Giants committed eight errors and allowed six unearned runs; the loss snapped the team’s 17-game win streak and sent the Giants into the tournament’s elimination round.
Keystone College stayed alive, downing Salisbury University, 7-2. Meletiche had a pair of hits, two RBIs and scored three runs.
The Giants’ heroics landed them in the tournament’s fourth round — just one game from the championship round. Their dreams of championship glory were dashed, though, by the nation’s top-ranked team, Marietta College.
Keystone’s 11-2 loss knocked them out of the tournament and ended their season. They committed four errors, allowing seven unearned runs. On offense, the Giants had only four hits.
Although they fell short of a national championship title, the Giants did have their most successful season in the history of Keystone College’s baseball program.
“It was awesome. It was a great feeling,” Keystone College head coach Jamie Shevchik said of his team’s World Series contention. “It was more than we ever expected. Getting to experience the World Series is definitely motivation to get back year in and year out. It’s been a very good, successful season of baseball at Keystone.”
In addition to claiming their first regional championship title and World Series berth, the Giants earned their highest national ranking ever — sixth in the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball poll.
“This year was a great team. We worked hard and practiced hard,” said Meletiche. “All of that hard work came through. We were working as a team instead of just individually, and I think that made a big difference.”
Meletiche has claimed a wealth of accolades this season as well. The 6-foot second baseman was named Colonial States Athletic Conference Player of the Year — for the second consecutive season — and was a First-Team Mid-Atlantic Region selection.
His heroics on the diamond earned Meletiche a Second-Team All-American selection on the D3baseball.com All-American Team.
This season, Meletiche started every game for the Giants. He led his team with 77 hits and 65 runs. He recorded a .423 batting average, with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.
“I don’t know if any single person can do what he’s done this year. He had an unbelievable year,” said Shevchik. “I don’t know if you can do much more as a baseball player in one single season.”
Success on the diamond in nothing new for Meletiche. Before his collegiate career, he helped Frankford High School dominate the Philadelphia Public League, taking part in four championship appearances and three title victories.
“Frankford prepared me a lot,” he said. “I came in not knowing a lot of the mechanics of baseball. I had a great coach, and that helped me through my high school career.”
During those days, Meletiche was the Pioneers’ ace pitcher. However, once he arrived at Keystone College, Meletiche retired from the hill.
“The coach let me know that he wanted me to be a full-time infielder, and I agreed,” explained Meletiche, who primarily plays second base but also handles shortstop duties on occasion. “I do miss it sometimes … I’m not going to lie. I joke around with the coach sometimes and tell him to put me on the mound, but it’s just jokes. I’m an infielder now and I really like it.”
Meletiche, a sports recreation management major in the classroom, is officially on summer break. He returned to his Northeast Philadelphia home, but only for one week.
There were more baseball games to play.
“I play in the Collegiate Baseball League in New York,” Meletiche said of the wooden-bat league. “I play as often as I can … I love it.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org