Valach improving as season goes on


Kevin Hall

Brandt Valach, a senior infielder, looks to run to first base in the Panhers game Tuesday against Illinois State at Coaches Stadium. Valach had two hits in the game.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern senior third baseman Brant Valach has improved his average to .306 after getting off to a slow start to the season.

Valach has four home runs, eight doubles and 22 hits in 72 plate appearances this season and leads the Panthers in batting average and slugging percentage with a .583.

Over the past four games, Valach went 7-for-17 with a home run and four runs batted in.

He said he has been working hard this year to try to be as consistent as he can, which has shown throughout the past couple weeks.

“I am really trusting and sticking to my approach, while hitting,” he said. “I am doing my best to focus on as much as possible every single pitch, while I’m playing the field. I make a conscious effort to slow the game down as much as possible, which helps me focus.”

Eastern coach Jimmy Schmitz said early on Valach wanted to get the big hit and was trying to pull the ball more.

“That is normal,” he said. “He is a middle of the lineup guy and we want him to drive in runs, but he wouldn’t give in to what the pitcher is doing. Lately, he has been on a tear to where if the guy makes a mistake early in the count, he is going to turn on it. If he gets in late in the count, Brant is able to go with it and go the other way.”

Schmitz said Valach is the main guy on the team that has been consistent throughout the season.

“It is so hard for him, because other people around him have not been consistent,” he said. “Brant has been has been the one main guy that has had the big hit or big play. To have that guy in the lineup that we know is going to be there is big, and he is a guy we can count on.”

This season is Valach’s last season as a Panther. He said he is looking forward to turning the season in the right direction for his team, who is currently winless on the season in 21 games.

“We are making improvements in certain areas,” he said. “We need to put a complete game together, and when we do that we will be successful.”

Growing up in Orland Park, Valach has always played sports to stay active and played football in basketball at Carl Sandburg High School.

Valach was a four-year letter winner in baseball and football, but fell in love with baseball because of how unique of a game it is and how difficult it is.

“No other sport is based off of failure as much as baseball is,” he said. “You fail as a hitter way more than you succeed and that challenge to succeed more and fail less is one that excites me.”

As a senior, Eastern senior Dane Sauer said Valach can be a vocal guy, but he definitely leads more by example.

“He’s great at that,” Sauer said. “He means a ton. He’s our guy. He’s doing really well for us right now, and that is nothing that is surprising to any of us.”

An example of that, Schmitz said, is that Valach never gets down on himself.

“He is showing the young kids how to compete,” Schmitz said.

Valach has hit over .300 all of his first three years at Eastern. As a freshman, he was named the Ohio Valley Conference ‘Rookie of the Year’, and was named to the 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team, which was selected by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper for his .314 batting average.

Valach hit .332 and had a .401 on-base percentage his sophomore year. Last season, he was named to the All-OVC Second Team for the second year in a row and hit .333 with a .503 slugging percentage.

Valach said Schmitz and the coaching staff give him the best opportunity to become a better baseball player.

“Coach Schmitz is like a dad to me,” he said. “He is an amazing person on and off the field. I wouldn’t be half the player I am without him being my coach.”

Valach said his biggest influence throughout his baseball career has been his father, who passed away a week before this school year started, and his mother.

He said he relied on his Eastern family to put him back together after the loss of his father.

“It was incredibly difficult,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my friends, coaches and teammates.”

Valach added he was always encouraged to be the best at whatever he was doing early on in life.

“I received tremendous support throughout my early life and still today in regards to baseball and sports in general,” he said.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].