Northeast Times

History in the making

North­east nat­ive Esteban Me­letiche has helped the Key­stone Col­lege base­ball squad re­cord its most suc­cess­ful sea­son in pro­gram his­tory.

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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 my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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