On deck

Two SRU baseball recruits discuss their past and future with the team

Published by Aidan Treu, Date: April 17, 2024
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Every young baseball player’s dream is to rise through the ranks with a friend and walk on a collegiate baseball diamond together. For Seneca Valley High School’s Owen Malak and Luke Anderton, that dream is a few months away from coming true.

“It’s going to be so much fun. We’ve been talking about this for years and I can’t believe it. We always say, ‘Dude, imagine if we go to the same school and room together and play on the same team,’ and it’s finally happening,” Malak said. “It’s going to be a blast.”

Anderton makes his impact on offense and defense. The speedy centerfielder was running a 6.9-second 60-yard dash as a freshman. Now, as a senior, he “can keep up with a guy who runs a 6.6,” he said.

His commitment to Slippery Rock was a long time coming. The lefty batter discussed visiting his friends up at SRU as far back as his sophomore year of high school.

“I committed to Slippery Rock last summer around July,” Anderton said. “I know the campus. I knew I wanted to play college baseball so I thought this would be perfect.”

Anderton mentioned his excitement to work on every part of his game. He wants to improve on every skill but believes his strongest skills as he starts at The Rock are his “bat for sure, and speed,” he said.

Ken Griffey Jr. probably comes to most baseball fans’ minds when thinking about a fast, sweet-swinging, lefty-batting centerfielder. Anderton thinks of him too, wanting to model his style after Junior.

While Anderton makes plays on both sides of the ball, Malak is a different type of two-way player, stating he wants to pitch and play first base for the White and Green. The pro comparison for a two-way player to MLB is a little easier, with Malak modeling his game after Shohei Ohtani.

The right-hander from Seneca Valley has the prototypical size for both pitching and first base, standing at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds.

While he cannot throw 100 percent right now, Malak showed off his velocity at a University of Pittsburgh showcase he attended.

“The hardest I’ve thrown was at a Pitt showcase when I was gunned, it was 89 [mph],” Malak said.

Malak is recovering from a UCL tear roughly one year ago, so he has not been pitching but was recently cleared to swing and play first base.

His exit velocity hitting off a tee is up to 95 mph. Hitting off a machine, he got all the way up to 102 mph off the bat. Assuming no setbacks, the aspiring two-way player will be ready to pitch when he arrives at Slippery Rock.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back at it and getting better than I ever was before,” Malak said.

Anderton is not the only connection for Malak. Nate, Malak’s brother, is already on the team.

“Having my brother up there helps us motivate each other to get into the gym and work hard at practice. It makes it so much easier and more fun,” Malak said.

Malak said Nate helped him connect with the coaches and has been a big part of his excitement about joining the program.

“I really enjoy the coaches and Nate has already played with them, so I have a pretty good relationship already with the coaches,” Malak said. “It’s not going to be as scary because I have Luke and I have Nate up there as well.”

Both Anderton and Malak played in the Cranberry Township Athletic Association (CTAA) baseball program when they were younger. From there they went on to play for different club teams.

The former joined the Diamond Dawgs at the age of 13 and played with them until 17, around the time when he committed to play for SRU. The latter was a member of hardcore elite baseball as a 13-year-old, then Steel City Baseball up until he was 16.

Malak also plans to pitch this summer for a team in West Virginia that he got connected to through his father.

While they played on different teams during past summers, their friendship continued through high school at Seneca Valley, where Malak appreciates having such a rangy defender guarding centerfield.

“It’s so nice having him in the outfield because you know any ball that gets hit to the outfield is going to be caught by him,” Malak said.

Both players commented on the others’ love for the game and how they drive each other to be better.

“As a friend [Malak] is a motivator and wants the best for you all the time. As a baseball player, he works hard. He got injured last high school season and what he’s doing, working on his hitting to do what he can in the lineup, it has been incredible,” Anderton said.

Malak had similar words for his longtime friend and teammate, saying “I think it will be a blast. We push each other all the time.”

“Even if it’s practice on a Saturday morning he’s giving 100 percent. He’s going to be going after every single ball and giving 110 percent effort. He’s always trying to do his best and motivate everyone else around him,” Malak said.

As comfortable and confident as they are coming to the same college to play baseball, just like when they were kids, both players are eager to improve their game and bring the best version of themselves to The Rock.

“I’m excited to develop my game further as a college athlete and grow into the game more as I get older,” Anderton said. “The college game is a lot different than high school.”

The two have no lack of competitive edge. Anderton recalled one of his favorite baseball memories being an at-bat against Malak at Slippery Rock’s field when they were 15.

“I have a good memory of facing him at Slippery Rock when we were around 15 years old,” Anderton said. “I hit an inside-the-park home run while he was pitching.”

Malak, not one to shy away from a challenge, said he’s looking for revenge on the very same field Anderton hit the home run.

“Hopefully at Slippery Rock during an inter-squad game I can get my get back,” Malak said.

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