Erickson gets Rocks off to fast start

Posted Online: March 27, 2013, 9:53 pm
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By DJ Jarvis,
Last summer, the Rock Island Post 200 baseball team made its pitch to Matt Erickson to get him to join its pitching staff.

Instead, Erickson opted to play at a lower level. He wanted a bat in his hand during games as well as a glove.

"Matt could have played for them and done very well," Rock Island baseball coach Jay Wayland said. "But he stayed down to help his team, to work on his hitting. How many high school kids would do that? I wouldn't have."

Erickson is one of those young, selfless hard workers.

A season ago, he struggled at the plate, leading the Rocks to employ the designated hitter on days he pitched. That didn't deter him to become a hitter.

So when the Legion called, Erickson declined in favor of the Junior Legion team to improve his hitting and all-around play.

Erickson is Rock Island's No. 1 pitcher and won regional openers in each of the last two seasons for the Rocks. The left-handed senior struck out 14 batters on Friday night in a 6-inning win over Knoxville at the Galesburg Invitational. He also was 2-for-3 at the plate with a sacrifice fly in their 16-0 win, helping him to be this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.

"It felt good to have a start like that," Erickson said. "I was just trying to get ahead in the count and hit my spots."

Erickson has a small advantage when it comes to other players.He grew up with his own personal hitting coach, pitching coach and catcher. Now the same "coach" shares the field.

That role is filled by Matt's twin brother Mitch, who is Rock Island's left fielder and also is a pitcher for the Rocks.

"It's nice knowing that I have one of my best friends behind me in my brother," Matt said. "We always try to pick each other up when the other is having a rough day."

From playing catch as kids to playing catch before games in high school, the brothers always are there for a word of advice or just a pick-me-up.

"I can't imagine them apart," Wayland said of the twins."They do everything together."

The brothers will continue their careers together next year at Black Hawk College.

"It's nice to have someone who I can always talk to," Mitch said, "and have someone who will let me know when I'm doing something wrong so I can fix it."

The 14 strikeouts for Matt was a career-high, meaning all but four outs came via the strikeout. Coming in the Rocks' first outside exposure made it even more special.

"We've been working hard indoors and making the most of our time and reps," said Matt, who helped the Rocks to a 3-0 record over the weekend in Galesburg. "After having a weekend like that, it gives our team a lot of confidence knowing we can play well together."

Metro Pacesetter -- Rock Island's Matt Erickson

Favorite food: Mongolian Grill 
Favorite TV show: ESPN's "Baseball Tonight"
Favorite class: Anatomy and Physiology
Favorite sport other than baseball: Basketball
Favorite baseball team: Chicago Cubs
Parents: Dan Erickson, East Moline, and Deb Heggen, Rock Island

In the running
Drew Owens, Moline:
The senior infielder collected five hits in a wins over Brimfield and Bartonville Limestone.

Kelsi Smith, Moline: Scored two goals and added two assists in the Maroons' 11-0 win over Bartonville Limestone.

Mystique Thompson, Rock Island: Won the 100-meter dash and ran a leg on the first-place 4x200 relay at the Southwestern Illinois Relays.


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2014. There are 162 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Everybody is invited to go on a moonlight excursion next Monday evening on the steamer New Boston. The trip will be from Davenport to Muscatine and back.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The mayor and bridge committee let a contract to the Clinton Bridge company for a $1,125 iron bridge across Sears canal near Milan.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Injunction proceedings to compel the Central Association to keep a baseball team in Rock Island for the remainder of the season were contemplated by some of the Rock Island fans, but they decided to defer action.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The first of the new and more powerful diesel engines built for the Rock Island Lines for the proposed Chicago-Denver run, passed thru the Tri-Cities this morning.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island Rescue Mission is negotiating for the purchase of the Prince Hall Masonic Home located at 37th Avenue and 5th Street, Rock Island.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Quad Cities Container Terminal is being lauded as a giant business boon that will save several days and hundreds of dollars on each goods shipment to the coasts. The Quad Cities Container Terminal is the final piece of the puzzle that opens up increase access to world markets, Robert Goldstein said.

(More History)