Maddening pace pays off for Bishop England baseball player Zack Madden
He’ll spend three to four hours a day practicing baseball before he hits the weight room. After that, it’s time for homework and maybe Atlanta Braves baseball highlights if it’s not too late.
Welcome to Zack Madden’s world.
The long hours and hard work are paying off for the Bishop England senior. He’s batting .407 and runs the bases as well as any baseball player in the state.
And then there’s the classroom. He has a 4.5 GPA, taking honors and AP classes.
You can catch his act at 2 p.m. Saturday when the Bishops host Woodland in the first game of the Class AA Lower State championship tournament. If you miss him this spring, you can catch him next year when he plays for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
He recently committed to play for the Gamecocks after withdrawing his earlier commitment to the College of Charleston.
“It was a tough decision,” Madden said. “I really liked the College of Charleston, but I had a productive fall and other schools were interested. I had to explore my options. When USC offered, it was a dream of a lifetime. It’s not bad going to a school that won back-to-back national championships (in 2010 and ’11) and has an excellent academic reputation.”
Madden started to waiver about playing for the Cougars when the school opted to leave the Southern Conference for the Colonial Athletic Association. He also had second thoughts after playing for the Diamond Devils, one of the nation’s top select travel teams, in the fall.
The team plays in the annual World Wood Bat Association World Championship held in Jupiter, Fla., in late October. It’s one of the top amateur events in the country and attracts more than 700 professional scouts and college coaches. It also attracts the top teams and players.
Madden excelled and was named to the all-tournament team after recording the 11th best batting average for the tournament. He hit .538 from his leadoff spot and had a robust .846 slugging percentage.
“I have to give half the credit to the Diamond Devils for what happened,” Madden said. “That Jupiter tournament was a huge, huge opportunity for me. I worked hard and it paid off.”
The rest of the credit goes to the Bishops, who are 19-4 this spring and seeking their sixth state title in 11 years. Madden has been slowed by a groin injury, but still managed a pair of hits in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Silver Bluff in the District 5 championship game.
Coach Mike Darnell projected Madden as his starting shortstop back in January, but moved him to center field, a position he is expected to play in college.
Darnell played high school baseball at Stratford and went on to play at The Citadel. He knows the jump to the next level can be huge.
“When I got to college, every player was as good as me or better,” Darnell said. “He understands the transition. He’s going from a Class AA program to USC. Most of their players make the jump from Class AAAA. If you can hit, they will find a position for you.”
Madden can hit. And he can run. He’s a threat to steal and will be even more of a base-running force when he refines his lead off base. He’s experienced but is still only 18 years old.
“I can’t wait for college,” Madden said. “But right now, I’m just thinking of winning. I know we’ve won state championships in the odd years: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011, but you don’t go out on the field and think about that. You have to live in the present and give it your best. If we pitch, hit and field, we can win.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil