Where do opposing teams like to see Lourdes Academy baseball player Chris Hetzel?
Would they like to see him on the mound? Probably not, since he is capable of taking the ball and going the full distance, shutting down their lineup.
Would they like to see him in the field? Um…no, since he can take away a base hit in the field or throw out a guy from behind the plate.
Would they like to see him at the plate? Please. The guy is batting over .400 at the top of the Knights lineup this year and could just as easily be their No. 3 or No. 4 hitter.
The only place they would like to see Hetzel is on Lourdes’ bench. But don’t count on that happening ever.
The four-year Knights star as excelled as a pitcher, hitter and fielder, which has led to four straight years with a Trailways All-Conference mention and a trip to the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament as a junior last year.
His versatility comes from his youth playing days. He played on two or three teams growing up and always played multiple positions depending on the team.
“Playing baseball since I was four really put me in a position to play wherever my coach wanted me too,” Hetzel said. “I just went were the coach needed me.”
That versatility translated well once he got to Lourdes as coach Reed Tyriver found him a position right away at catcher as a freshman on the varsity squad.
Even as a freshman his talent showed through, earning him a second-team nod on the all-conference squads. Hetzel didn’t think the stage was too big for him as a freshman.
“To me it was just another level,” he said. “I knew I was going to have to grow into it and get up to the level that the other guys were.”
But he still needed to learn and improve once he got to varsity. He did just those things, improving each part of his game while also maturing into the leader the Knights needed come his junior and senior seasons.
“The thing that I’m most proud of him in his growth over the last four years is his maturity,” Tyriver said. “Him realizing that the younger kids look up to him is something three or four years ago I don’t think he knew.”
That maturity along with his skill set allowed him to be a big part of the Knights incredible run to the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament last year.
Lourdes, as a low seed in their regional, rattled off win after win thanks in large part to the 1-2 pitching duo of Hetzel and Robbie Kleman.
The Knights fell in the state semifinal to Prescott, but the journey was still a fun one for Hetzel and the Knights
“It was great,” he said. “I know last year in our sectional final game against Deerfield, we weren’t talent-wise up to them but we just came out and played our best game and started winning when it counted.”
Hetzel has continued his great play into this season, hitting leadoff for the Knights and dominating when he has the chance to get on the mound.
The embodiment of his versatility came through against Cambria-Friesland this year, where he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two triples and five runs batted in at the plate and also threw a six-inning one hitter.
With all of his successes both at the plate, in the field and on the mound, there is only one place he would like to be with the game on the line: the mound.
“Pitching is probably my strongest area,” Hetzel said. “I’ve been pitching since I was nine years old. It’s just natural to me. It just comes easy.”
Hetzel will take his talents to UW-Stevens Point next year and should have a good chance at finding a spot with his ability to do multiple things.
But there is still work to be done at Lourdes, who begins their trek in the WIAA Tournament on Friday. He hopes that the Knights can get hot once again.
“I hope we can do what we did last year,” he said. “Just getting back to where we know we can play at. We know we are a team that can win. We have plenty of talent, we just have to show it.”