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Extra work makes Malay stand out

Mirror file photo Central Cambria’s Zach Malay was a three-year starter coming into his senior season.

Senior salute

The Mirror is recognizing some high school senior spring sports athletes who missed out on their final scholastic seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all 2020 PIAA spring sports, Central Cambria High School pitcher-infielder Zach Malay was looking forward to a big senior season on the baseball field.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Malay would have been a fourth-year starting infielder for the Red Devils at either second base, shortstop or third base this spring, after starting at second base in each of his first three years.

He also would have been the team’s top pitcher this year, after striking out 18 batters in 17 innings as a junior.

To see the season come to an end before it even started was a tough pill for Malay and his Central Cambria teammates to have to swallow.

“Just the thought that I’m never going to play another baseball game at Central Cambria with my teammates and friends is very sad,” Malay said. “It’s really tough that the spring sports were cancelled. We had a good team, and a really good chance of winning some ballgames.”

Malay was to play a big role on this year’s team.

“He’s just one of those kids who you love to have in your program,” Central Cambria coach Joe Klezek said of Malay, who will graduate high school with a 3.8 grade-point average and will attend college at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he will study civil engineering and pitch for the UPJ baseball team.

“He’s a smart kid, an athletic kid with a good sense of humor,” Klezek added. “He’s an all-around good kid who works hard and will have nothing but success coming to him down the road.”

As a pitcher, Malay used a quick breaking ball that he kept down in the strike zone to keep opposing hitters off-balance.

“He would have been our number one (pitcher) this year,” Klezek said. “He has a nice, sharp,quick breaking ball that looks like a fast ball because it’s down in the zone a lot. It’s really deceptive for a batter who is looking at it. It’s really tough to pick up the spin on it.”

Malay is confident in his ability to throw strikes.

“I can find the (strike) zone when I have to,” Malay said. “I don’t throw 90 miles an hour, but when I need to throw a strike, I feel like I can do that.”

As an infielder, Malay possesses good hands and good instinct.

“He has some quick hands, some smooth hands, and he obviously has a good strong arm,” Klezek said of Malay, who also batted .270 in his junior year with 10 hits in 47 at-bats, while driving in seven runs. “But I think that his ability to position himself on the field is probably one of his biggest strengths.

“He has a good memory for what (opposing) batters do, where they’ve hit the ball in the past, and he’s able to adjust his position on the field according to what pitch that he sees our pitcher throwing,” Klezek added.

Malay is a student of the game who works very hard.

“He’s always a guy who is going to put in the extra work,” Klezek said. “I hope that some of our younger guys on the team saw the way that he went about his business, and will try to emulate that moving forward.”

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