This is one in a series of articles highlighting some of the best players in the area heading into the 2022 high school baseball season.
BUTLER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — His long, wavy black hair flows out from under his Karns City baseball cap and spills down over his shoulders.
Mallick Metcalfe looks the part of a drummer in a 1980s Hair Band.
But for the Gremlins’ baseball team, Metcalfe is front and center, the lead singer for a group that wants to rock and roll in 2022.
Metcalfe is the ace of the pitching staff with a moving fastball, a changeup and slurve that he can all spot for strikes.
Metcalfe was 5-0 with a 3.50 ERA last season. In 32 innings pitched he struck out 27 and walked just seven.
At the plate, he was also stellar, batting .478 with two home runs and 14 RBI — good power numbers considering Karns City plays its home games in cavernous Pullman Park in Butler.
Metcalfe is poised to be even better this season.
He shed some weight in the offseason and became leaner. The velocity of his fastball has ticked up and his bat speed at the plate has also increased.
He’s also more agile on the basepaths.
“I’ve really noticed it in my pitching,” Metcalfe said. “I’m throwing harder and harder — at least five miles per hour.”
Metcalfe’s strength on the mound, though, is his pinpoint control and his ability to keep hitters off-balance.
He just knows how to pitch.
“You know, we’ve never had that electric fastball guy, but Mallick has picked up a little velocity,” said Karns City coach Josh “Sluggo” Smith. “He throws strikes, and that’s our pitching philosophy. He sets up that fastball with his off-speed stuff. He’s very effective because he’s consistent in his command.”
Metcalfe isn’t going to blow hitters away. He doesn’t need to because of his craftiness.
He’s always pitched that way. It’s his comfort zone.
“I like my breaking ball,” Metcalfe said. “But my go-to is always going to be my fastball. The off-speed stuff makes my fastball better.”
Metcalfe has resisted the urge to tinker too much with his pitches.
He’s stuck throughout his career with the fastball, changeup, slurve combination. It’s served him well, so why mess with success?
“Keep it simple,” Metcalfe said, grinning. “Stay with what works.”
It’s the same approach the soft-spoken Metcalfe takes at the plate.
Metcalfe is a young man of few words. He’d rather let his play do the talking for him.
Metcalfe is a quiet leader on a young Karns City team that started out strong last season, but struggled as the year wore on, finishing with a 7-10 record after storming out of the gate with a 3-1 mark.
“He’s not much of a vocal guy,” Smith said. “We don’t have that vocal, hurrah guy. But we have guys who are leaders by example and Mallick is one of them.”
Metcalfe said he doesn’t want a repeat of the fade the Gremlins experienced last season, even though it was understandable.
Karns City was loaded with sophomores who lost out on a freshman season at the high school level because the spring sports year was canceled by COVID-19. They went right from junior high to varsity baseball without that freshman bridge year.
And it showed at times.
Now Metcalfe and the rest of the band of juniors are ready for their 2022 jam session.
“We have a lot of pride in baseball here,” Metcalfe said. “Everyone wants to perform well. We get upset when we’re not doing our best. I’m very confident in our team this our. Our defense is very good.”