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Athlete Worth Watching: Elliot Zoellner

May 04, 2016 03:35PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Tom Worgo

St. Mary’s High School Baseball

When St. Mary’s baseball coach Johnny Poss talks about blossoming senior pitcher Elliot Zoellner, he sees limitless potential. After being offered 10 scholarships, Zoellner picked the University of Maryland.

All 10 colleges aggressively pursued the 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander because he was clocked throwing more than 90 miles per hour several times on the radar gun last year. That also attracted the attention of several Major League baseball teams.

“I would say there is a pretty good chance of him getting drafted,” Poss says. “In terms of velocity and being able to top out at 93, I would say he is among the top five percent in the country. I played Division I college baseball and five years professionally in the minor leagues and arms like his don’t come around very often,” he adds. “I have seen maybe one or two others in my baseball career.”

And what a baseball career Zoellner has put together at St. Mary’s. The 18-year-old came into the 2016 season with a perfect 15-0 record. Zoellner went 7-0 as a freshman, fashioning a 1.04 ERA while striking out 57 batters in 40 innings and giving up only 19 hits. He also posted a sparkling 7-0 record as a sophomore to help the Saints to a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship.

Zoellner missed most of the 2015 season because of a strained flexor tendon in his forearm, but he earned a save in St. Mary’s title-clinching win over Boys’ Latin to help the Saints repeat.

Zoellner said he used that injury as motivation to better himself as a pitcher. Along with adding about 20 pounds, he also grew an inch since last season.

The added bulk should help this year, since St. Mary’s has moved up to the MIAA A Conference, which is considered one of the best leagues in the state. “I really revved up my training,” he explains. “I am always training. I feel I have gotten a lot better and I really wanted to come out and show it this year.”

Poss calls Zoellner the ideal role model for the Saints’ younger players. “He is the hardest working kid that we have,” Poss says. “He is a great leader for our kids to see—a kid with that much talent working so hard.”  

Zoellner possesses an impressive three-pitch repertoire, which includes an eye-catching fastball, knee-buckling curveball and excellent change-up. Poss just raves about Zoellner’s curveball. “His curveball is of Major League quality,” he says. “That’s one of the things that scouts really like about him. All the colleges that have wanted him have said that’s a plus pitch as well.”

Zoellner gets excited when he talks about the University of Maryland. He chose the Terrapins, a program that has won 40 or more games the past two seasons while making the NCAA Tournament, over West Virginia last summer. Zoellner, who carries a 3.7 grade point average, committed to Maryland in July and signed a National Letter of Intent in November.

“My mother went there, plus they have a great coaching staff,” Zoellner says.  “I know the coaches very well. It’s close to home and they also have great academics. I just thought it was the perfect fit.” It was about the same time that Zoellner settled on Maryland that he caught the attention of the professional teams.

Hitting 93 on the radar gun in a high-profile tournament at Metro Bank Park, the stadium of the Washington Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, heightened their interest.

“There aren’t many kids in the state of Maryland that throw 90 miles per hour,” Poss says. “After hitting the velocity mark he did, he started getting invited to a lot of pro workouts. The biggest one was in September when the Major League Scouting Bureau had a tryout in Virginia and he did very well there.”