Four For Four

Von Rosenberg has survived four dogpiles

The goal of any high school baseball player is to ultimately win a state championship. A small percentage of participants get the chance to play in one and even fewer get that sweet taste of victory. The luckiest get to experience it more than once.

What Zack Von Rosenberg has experienced in his varsity career is simply unimaginable.

Not only did he just claim his fourth state championship ring, but he was the starting, and winning, pitcher in all four title clinchers. Read that again: He started and won a state championship game as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.

"It's a dream come true," Von Rosenberg said. "It's unbelievable to just win one. To win four you're like, 'Is that even possible?' It's like living in a dream world. You couldn't ask for a better high school career."

The ace righthander for Zachary (La.) High, just north of Baton Rouge, Von Rosenberg has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, with a little room to fill out. He doesn't blow hitters away with overpowering heat, but the results rival many of the top pitching prospects. This season he went 11-1, 0.60 with two saves in 93 innings pitched. He allowed only 56 hits while striking out 141 and walking 18.

While his fastball sits 89-92 mph and can touch 94, Von Rosenberg shows exceptional command, polish and a feel for pitching. Von Rosenberg's prospect status hasn't been long standing despite his distinguished career, commitment to Louisiana State and the expectation of being drafted in the second or third round.

Fork In The Road

The German Assassin, as his coaches and teammates call him, actually started his career at the perennial Louisiana power of Barbe High in Lake Charles, less than 40 miles from Louisiana-Texas border. Barbe has produced baseball names like lefthander Wade LeBlanc, who was drafted in the second round in 2006 out Alabama by the Padres, as well as Carmen Angelini, a prep shortstop selected in 2007 by the Yankees. Angelini and Von Rosenberg were teammates on the 2006 squad that won the 5-A state title and finished with a 37-7 record.

Von Rosenberg was a runt then. He stood only 5-foot-7 and threw just a 78-79 mph fastball, which sometimes touched 80. Nonetheless he surrendered only one unearned run in a 2-1 win that netted his first state title. It looked like the start of another special talent for Barbe's program, but things changed quickly.

After the 2006 season, Von Rosenberg's parents were offered better jobs across the state in the school district that included Zachary High. So the family packed up and moved away from Lake Charles and Barbe. They weren't alone, however, as Jesse Cassard, an assistant under Glenn Cecchini at Barbe took over as head coach at Zachary.

Going into the new school year, the odds were against Cassard and his squad. A new regime was in town, as well as new players, and the returning athletes weren't in the physical shape that Cassard knew was needed to win.

"Our offseason workouts were gruesome," Cassard said. "They were so out of shape. From the first day of school up until the first game we had three-hour workouts every day. They were ridiculous. Some kids made it and some kids didn't. And fortunately the kids that were talented wanted to go through it."

Each player did what any strong program needs them to do. They bought into the philosophy of the coaching staff. Egos and differences were put aside and the team focused on doing what it takes to win.

Zachary won the next two state title games 7-0, with Von Rosenberg on the hill. During his sophomore year he was only throwing 83-84 while standing six feet tall. His junior year he was up to 6-foot-3, and 86-87 with his fastball.

In his senior year, Von Rosenberg had jumped to 6-foot-5 and was registering in the low 90s on radar guns while leading his team back to the state tournament and setting up the chance at a third straight title and immortality. It wasn't as easy as the previous two though. Von Rosenberg gave up his first earned run in a state title game as Sam Houston High (Lake Charles, La.) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Zachary battled back and the game was tied 2-2 until the fourth when the Broncos made it 3-2. A couple of insurance runs in the sixth gave Zachary a 5-2 lead that held until the final out. It was then that Von Rosenberg was speared by his teammates and sent to the bottom of a dog pile for the fourth time in four years.

"Every time you lose your breath," he said. "You feel like you're choking because you can't breathe. But it's all worth it. You go a whole year without doing it and its worth it. I'll have those few seconds where I can't breathe to celebrate with my teammates. It's all part of the championship, it's just tradition. It's a great feeling."

The Next Step

Von Rosenberg and his family took a vacation after celebrating his latest achievement. Even though the high from winning another title was present, a big decision remained looming in the distance. Von Rosenberg is likely to be selected in the draft before the second round is complete, possibly even the first supplemental. He is showing no sign of preference.

"I guess you could say when I get drafted that'll be my favorite team," Von Rosenberg said. "I'm just thinking whatever happens, happens. If I feel I need to forgo LSU, I'll do it. It's going to be a decision where I weigh the options of LSU and pro ball. I can't make a bad decision with either. It's a decision I'd like to make rather than not have it."

So wherever he ends up, what will that team be getting? Von Rosenberg has a competitive edge and mentality rarely seen in the everyday high schooler. His pitchability is advanced for his age, which stemmed from his habit of simply listening.

"When I was at Barbe and he was 12 years old he would ride with us on the bus trips," Cassard said. "He wouldn't say a word. It was hard to even get one word out of him. He'd sit there and listen to the coaches talk and take everything in. He'd figure out the game that way. He's a good learner. Every situation that comes up he's already got an answer for it. But he's still coachable. That's the biggest thing. He's been so focused on being good."

Not only did he listen intently to coaches at a young age, but Von Rosenberg wasn't shy about poking older athletes for info. Growing up next door to LeBlanc, he had a good one to pry for advice.

"When he was in high school I talked to him a lot about what to do," Von Rosenberg said. "I asked him how do you pitch like that. He just said 'I throw strikes.' That was it. That was all he told me. And I said you know what, I'm going to throw strikes. That's what people say about me. I'm a strike-thrower. I don't walk people."

And the pro scouts have noticed.

"He throws a fastball, curveball and changeup," one scout said. "He commands all three and all three are major league average pitches. He's very polished right now. That's why he's been so successful. He's competitive and has great pitchability."

In the end either the LSU coaches or a professional franchise will be grateful for acquiring a polished righthander. They should also be thankful for his physical health: It's a miracle Von Rosenberg survived four dog piles.