It’s been a long time coming in a college baseball career that turned out a lot longer than expected for Chemainus baseball product Zach Diewert.
After seven years prolonged by injuries and COVID, the end is near and Diewert is going out in style. He’s heading to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series in Lewiston, Idaho May 27-June 3 as a member of the Southeastern University Fire from Lakeland, Florida.
“Except for the injuries, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” enthused Diewert, 25.
He’s looking forward to making a contribution to his team that’s ranked No. 1 in the tournament after a remarkable season record of 54-3 overall and 22-2 in Sun Conference play.
“The last couple of weeks since I’ve been healthy I’ve been first off the bench pinch-hitting but I have got a start coming up,” Diewert said.
He’s been getting hits practically every time at the plate in the pinch-hitting role.
There’s never been any doubt about Diewert’s talent and he attracted plenty of attention from Major League scouts since heading south after graduating from Chemainus Secondary School. It’s just the injuries that prevented him from reaching full potential.
But Diewert is poised to make a contribution to a very good Southeastern team and has a unique chance to be part of a national championship. The Fire won 26 games in a row to start the season before losing for the first time, rattled off another 11 straight victories, dropped two straight and then completed the season on a 17-game win streak.
“We’ve got a lot of guys contributing,” said Diewert. “I think I’ll get a good chance of starting.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the country, definitely the favourites to win it now. We’ve got pretty high expectations. We’ve just got to show up every day.”
Following the great regular season, the Fire swept to the Sun Conference Tournament championship at West Palm Beach with four consecutive wins and then went to the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round in Indiana where it chalked up a pair of 9-5 victories over Bryon College of Tennessee and defeated the University of Northwestern Ohio 9-6.
Diewert has always felt right at home in Lakeland, Florida. That’s where he started his college career for two seasons of injury-free baseball at Polk State College.
He then transferred to the University of Missouri, but wound up tearing the labrum in his left shoulder and took the whole season off as a medical red-shirt. Diewert wasn’t entirely happy with the program at Missouri anyway and wound up departing for Lakeland again.
“I kind of wanted to get back to Florida weather, too,” he confided.
Diewert transferred to Florida Southern but then missed the last 25 games of his first season there after tearing a hamstring. He tried to come back, but tore it again. The following season was cancelled due to COVID.
The next stop was Southeastern for 2021 and Diewert got off to a torrid start in the first game of the season with a home run, a double and two walks in the first game. But then he tore the labrum in his right shoulder and red-shirted the season.
Diewert was at first base after the last walk and “I was in an awkward position already leaning toward second,” he explained. He knew right away it was trouble for his shoulder.
“That was frustrating. I had a really good fall and pre-season after COVID. I was always working with my trainer. It was a pretty bad tear.”
Things were going reasonably well in 2022 when he broke his pinky finger 10 games into the season heading into second base after hitting a double.
Diewert was still feeling the effects of his shoulder injury in the beginning and spent the majority of the time as the designated hitter. He finally got a chance to start and that’s when the broken pinky finger happened.
Diewert was out for more than a month and just returned for the last game of the regular season, going two-for-two. He wasn’t sure at that point whether his coach would include him on the Fire’s 25-man playoff roster.
“My coach was happy with that. He gave me a spot on the playoff roster. I was doubting it a little bit.”
Diewert is now making the most of this opportunity.
“I’m healthier and I’m feeling good now,” he said.
Along the way, Diewert obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Florida Southern and his Masters at Southeastern.
“It’s kind of worked out in the best way for tuition and getting covered,” he said.
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