Rick’s Sports Corner: Zack Freck Has Season To Remember

After missing his junior season because of a right shoulder injury, the current Los Angeles Valley College player had a spectacular senior campaign.

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By Rick Assad

Having not played his junior season because of a right shoulder injury was a setback for Zack Freck, but it also served as a springboard for an amazing final campaign for the former Burroughs High baseball pitcher.

“For me, missing my junior season was heartbreaking but with my injury I still showed up to every practice and game and grind in school and in the gym,” he said.

There was more at work and it was Freck’s close friendship with one of the aces on that title team.

“What inspired me to have a good season was my competition with my longtime best friend, Nick Forrest,” he said. “I saw the amazing season he put in his junior year. I wanted to do better.”

Gunnar Nichols and Forrest were the co-aces on the team that won the CIF Southern Section Division V title in 2022 at Goodwin Field on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

The following season, Forrest missed the entire campaign with arm issues and Freck, who is studying at Los Angeles Valley College and is on the baseball team, emerged as the top hurler.

The Bears finished 12-12 and 8-6 in league for third place and made it to the Division II playoffs but lost to Lakewood 2-1 in nine innings in the opening round.

“During my senior year, at the start, I was a closing pitcher and so my role early was to shut the door and win the game,” Freck said. “But as time went on later in the year, I adapted to become the ace on the team.”

Burroughs pitcher Zack Freck’s slider was his best pitch and almost unhittable. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Matt Magallon, the Burroughs baseball coach, knows of Freck’s value.

“Zack is a fantastic young man that has overcome so much,” he said. “We are so proud of him as a coaching staff and as a program.”

What helped Freck was the support of his father, Kraig, who suffered a stroke but is getting better and his mother, Jo Dee, who attended numerous games and always had her camera at the ready.

Standing on the hill gave Freck a sense of calm and confidence.

“When I’m on the mound, I think my best asset is my competitiveness that grants me the ability to face any player no matter how intimidating they look,” he said.

With more people in the stands and the pressure ramped up, Freck stood tall and delivered his masterpiece and it came versus the rival school.

“The game I felt the best was my last home game against Burbank High School,” he recalled of that 2-1 victory over the visiting Bulldogs. “I pitched a complete game surrendering one run but still pulling through with the win. The reason why I felt the best was because energy was high on both sides and the stands were packed. Plus I won the rival game.”

When Freck needed to get out of a tough jam, he knew what pitch he could rely on.

“My wipeout pitch is the slider. It has a late break and normally a setup pitch or a strikeout pitch,” he offered. “I figured out early in the year how to throw it with the help of my coaches.”

Knowing this pitch was always available gave Freck a huge advantage.”Early on I worked in different grips and found that spiking my slider grip worked the best,” he added. “I’m comfortable throwing it in any count against any hitter.” 

Magallon appreciates players like Freck, who work hard and are determined to succeed.

“He is someone that was a true leader and with Nick Forrest not being able to play last year, he stepped up and became the leader our team needed,” he said.

Zack Freck missed his junior season with a shoulder injury but responded with a stellar final campaign for the Bears. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Pitching, like hitting, is a rollercoaster ride because it’s not easy to win every game.

There is going to be a rough patch, but you still have to bear down and not give in.

“When I’m in a tight jam I like to think, attack the hitter with my best stuff and to have the confidence in myself to get out of whatever situation I was in,” Freck said.

There was another piece of information at work that may have assisted Freck when it was time for him to take the mound.

“I know everyone is different when preparing for a game, but my thing was eating Chick-fil-A,” he said. “I’ve been eating Chick-fil-A every game since my sophomore year.” 

Possessing the ability to throw a baseball and get batters out is a gift and for Freck it was something he worked on at a tender age.

“Growing up I always loved pitching and luckily it was something I was quite good at and I never had a pitching coach,” he said. “I was always self taught.”

Being with friends and forming bonds with other players made Freck’s four years playing baseball something truly special.

“The best thing about playing for John Burroughs was the teammates, who I treat like family, and they were there for me on and off the field.”

Those memories, like his senior season, are going to last forever.