NEWTOWN TWP. >> What more can be said about Marple Newtown’s Luke Zimmerman?
He was the man.
Zimmerman’s made a lot of #Magic in a 2018 season that ended at Penn State University’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, when his walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning gave Marple Newtown the PIAA Class 5A championship.
Time after time, Zimmerman came through in clutch situations. On the mound and at the plate, no one was better.
It’s no shock to learn that Zimmerman is the Daily Times Player of the Year. It could be argued there has never been an easier choice in the history of the award.
Joining Zimmerman on the All-Delco team, which is selected after consultation with area coaches, are his teammates Alden Mathes and Luke Cantwell, Archbishop Carroll’s Cole Chesnet, Tyler Kehoe and Jake Kelchner, Bonner & Prendergast’s Nate Furman, Cardinal O’Hara’s Dan Hopkins, Episcopal Academy’s Isaiah Payton, Garnet Valley’s Mason Miller, Haverford School’s Justin Meyer and Strath Haven’s Anthony Viggiano.
Two weeks after he crushed a pitch to the right-field fence, knocking in the winning run and igniting a celebration of a lifetime, Zimmerman was still coming to grips with his new reality.
Luke Zimmerman wins it for @MNBaseball1 !!!!
ThebTigers are state champs !!!!
2-1 final pic.twitter.com/Xkc773LAxs
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) June 15, 2018
“Obviously, it’s been pretty crazy,” he said. “Everything happened pretty fast. The day after we won, we graduated and saw a bunch of people there, coming up to me and saying ‘Oh, I watched it all, it was great.’ Then after going away for senior week, I was at the dentist. My mouth is still numb and the dentist says, ‘Can I take a picture with you? I want to put it on our Facebook page.” I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ So, it’s been a crazy few weeks.”
Zimmerman had experience with local fame before. Four years ago he was a member of the Broomall-Newtown team that won the Babe Ruth 15-year-old World Series.
“That was a great feeling, back then, having everyone watching us and cheering for us,” Zimmerman said. “This was
the same thing, the same feeling, but it was a little bit bigger. It’s a high school championship and everyone in the community follows Marple Newtown.”
Marple Newtown juniors Kevin Merrone, Alden Mathes and Sal Tartaglia were Zimmerman’s teammates on both squads.
“I played with those guys all the way up,” Zimmerman said. “I’m only 17, so I was always an age group down and I played with the younger guys. I think that helped me out”
Whether it’s at Wawa or the dentist office, Zimmerman gets noticed. On senior week in North Carolina, Zimmerman and the other seniors proudly donned their championship medals and snapped pics with adoring coeds.
For Zimmerman and the Tigers, the 2018 season started in Kissimmee, Fla. — hence the rallying cry #Magic (for Magic Kingdom) — the first stop in a long journey to 25 wins against only two losses.
“That was real important for us, seeing good teams like that,” he said. “I don’t think we knew how good we were going to be, but the Florida (trip) definitely helped. I think (winning) down there gave us a lot of confidence.”
Back home, the Tigers dominated the Central League and earned the No. 3 seed in the District 1 Class 5A tournament … behind — believe it or not — teams like Holy Ghost Prep, which was upset in the first round, and Interboro.
Zimmerman mashed a walk-off homer in the quarterfinals, then clubbed a three-run double and threw five shutout innings in the semis. He had a shutout brewing into the seventh inning of the district final, but Henderson managed to come back and beat the Tigers in extras.
“Once that was over,” he said, “we knew we had a new season in states.”
Zimmerman pitched a three-hit shutout in the PIAA quarters, then knocked in the only run and got the save in a 1-0 victory over West Allegheny in the semifinals. Zimmerman started in the state final, and although he didn’t have his best stuff, he allowed only one run in 5⅔ innings. Sean Standen then gave the Tigers 4⅓ innings of flawless relief.
Zimmerman, who transferred from Cardinal O’Hara after his sophomore year, started pitching at a young age. The lefty ace, who will pitch exclusively at Saint Joseph’s next spring, finished 10-0 with a 0.71 ERA. He had 99 strikeouts in 69 innings of work.
“Naturally, I’m right-handed and I do everything with my right hand,” he said. “When I was young my dad just stuck a left-handed glove in my hand and said you have to deal with it, that this is what you’re going to do.”
If Zimmerman didn’t find his niche on the mound, he would have done just fine as a power-hitting first baseman. This season he batted .469 with a .500 on-base percentage and an otherworldly .901 slugging percentage. He led the Tigers in doubles (10), homers (seven) and RBIs (38).
“I was definitely more confident this year as a player, especially with my pitching. I knew I was going to beat the guy at the plate pretty much every time,” Zimmerman said. “That’s the way I had to think. I also knew I had the guys behind me. We had a great infield and great outfield and I knew the guys would make the play nine times out of 10.”
Zimmerman had a cool demeanor that never changed.
“I don’t get nervous,” he said. “I’ve always been that way, I think.”
It also helped to have a coach like Mark Jordan, who connected with his players and allowed them to play their game. He didn’t give up on them when they were mired in a slump or made errors in the field. That is a quality, Zimmerman noted, that everyone respected. Jordan’s quirky personality aside, he is a great player’s coach.
“Coming into my junior year, I was a little skeptical. Jordan would run in a little late from girls basketball practice (at Radnor) and start chucking the ball around, and he was a little weird,” Zimmerman said. “With Jordan, he’s got confidence in everyone. He knows people will have bad games … but he knows they’re going to come back eventually. We had fun with him at practice. We’ll be in the outfield shagging balls and he’ll be dancing behind the cage or something. If somebody who didn’t know us came to our practice, they would think how the hell is this team any good? We’re just a bunch of clowns out here having fun. But it also helped us stay loose.”
Zimmerman couldn’t have asked for a better two years at Marple, after making the transfer from Cardinal O’Hara. He got to make memories with his friends, play under Jordan and his staff, and win both a District 1 and state title.
Not a bad career.
“It was all worth it,” he said.