Baseball: Wendt’s numbers are good, on field and in classroom

The back of John Wendt III’s baseball card should read something like this:

Height: 6 foot 3 inches. Bats: Right. Throws: Right. School: Riverhead High School. Favorite Math Subject: Calculus. Significant Statistics: Is ranked eighth among 314 students. Holds a weighted grade-point average of 105.77.

And, oh yeah, this member of the National Honor Society and the Foreign Language Society is also a pretty darn good baseball player.

Wendt has been putting up impressive numbers on the baseball diamond as well as in the classroom. In fact, the senior has been doing so well that he was offered, and accepted, a math and science scholarship to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. Not only that, but Wendt will play baseball for the private liberal arts college that competes in NCAA Division III.

Wendt said he selected Bard because of its engineering offerings.

“I was taught at a very young age that grades are very important,” he said after a signing ceremony Friday in the Riverhead High School library.

Not only does Wendt put up big numbers, but he’s impressive working with them. He began studying high school math when he was in seventh grade and has taken all the math courses the school offers.

“He’s a math whiz!” his guidance counselor, Christy Salerno, was quoted as saying in a school press release.

Riverhead’s coach, Rob Maccone, said Wendt has been “the smartest kid on our team for a really long time.”

Some of those academic skills, such as problem solving and recognizing patterns, may come in handy for Wendt when he is playing baseball.

The letterhead on Bard stationary refers to the college as “a place to think.” It will also be a place to play baseball for Wendt, who pitches the first game in every series for the Blue Waves. He also plays third base and first base.

Wendt began his varsity career as a freshman, but missed his entire junior season because of spondylosis in his lower spine. But Wendt has recovered from the fracturing of his vertebrae and is having a fine senior season. Through 17 games, he holds a 2-2 record with a 2.53 earned run average. He has 22 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 1.19 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings pitched.

Wendt has been effective with a bat in his hands as well. After a slow start to the season offensively, Wendt has “been red hot ever since,” said Maccone.

The numbers bear that out. Wendt has a .326 batting average with seven runs batted in and a .404 on-base percentage.

“He’s having a great season,” said Maccone, whose team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in seven years. “On the mound, he’s kept us in every game. His record doesn’t show [how] well he’s pitched. He’s 2 and 2, but he should be probably 4 and 0 or 6 and 0.”

Wendt throws a curveball, a fastball and a straight changeup. He said he wants to work on the command of his pitches. “I need to be able to make sure I can hit all three pitches at any spot in any part of the count,” he said. “So, I just need to work on getting ahead and staying there.”

Among those joining Wendt in the signing ceremony were his parents, John Jr. and Suzanne, and his younger brother, Riley.

In an announcement that Wendt has been awarded the Distinguished Scientist Scholarship, Bard’s coach, Ed Kahovec, said: “We are thrilled that John has decided to attend Bard College and join our baseball program; we have the highest expectations for him on the field and in the classroom.”

Wendt isn’t the only Riverhead senior with college baseball in his future. The others are Joe Hart (Purchase College), Nick Herzog (University of Massachusetts), Tanner Lindsay (University of Mary Washington) and Kenny Simco (Farmingdale State).

Wendt said rural Bard has a”homey” feel to it. From the pitching mound at Bard, he has a scenic setting, with a mountain range in view.

“Every time I went there I just felt at home there, I just felt most comfortable,” he said. “It had a feeling to it that I knew this was the one.”

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