Mound ace Mendik keys JFK success

The John F. Kennedy baseball team is the No. 1 seed in the Division IV Fairport Harbor District, and a big part of the the Eagles’ success can be attributed to their ace pitcher, Drew Mendik. The senior is 5-0 with 61 strikeouts and an ERA below 0.50 for the year.

Mendik, who will attend Youngstown State in the fall as a preferred walk-on with the Penguins’ baseball team, has seemingly done everything right this year, and a big part of his success comes from his offseason growth.

“Last year, I had good speed. But my location this year has definitely improved on me quite a bit,” Mendik said. “I’ve cut down the walks probably like 75 percent from last year.”

Mendik did not even become a pitcher until his freshman year, when his travel ball coach had him make the transition. Mendik, who plays for the Titans out of the Ravenna area, said that he’s been working hard throughout the winter and summer to improve his craft.

According to Mendik, the transition had its challenges early on, as he said that he gets “mad pretty easily.” However, Mendik eventually overcame the problem, and it shows, as Mendik is said to be very calm and composed on the mound.

Initially, Mendik was a fastball pitcher. However, in the past few years, he’s added a changeup, curveball, slider and a cutter along the way, to complement his two and four-seam fastballs.

“(I) started off with the fastball, and worked to a changeup,” Mendik said. “Because, you need a changeup more than a curveball–because it’s better for your elbow. Gradually I worked over the curveball and slider.”

Mendik said his passion for the game started as a young T-ball player, around age 4 or 5. Drew knew he was hooked the first time he hit the ball, and realized it was the right sport for him.

He and his teammates will look to carry that same passion with them throughout the district tournament, as the No. 5 Maplewood Rockets stand in their way in today’s semifinal at Fairport Harbor.

The Eagles (11-4) have shown a significant amount of improvement this season, led by their ace. However, if they want to win the district and beyond in coach Don Lee’s final season, focus will be needed.

“I think we need to cut down on the mental mistakes,” Mendik said. “(We need to) pretty much hit the ball, throw strikes, make plays.”