Whether Matt Wallingford is pitching, hitting — or speaking — he gets right to the point.
A brief conversation is all you will get out of the competitive Leavitt senior, who lets his arm and mighty bat do the talking for him on a diamond. When he is not on the mound, he is at shortstop fielding anything that comes his way.
Leavitt baseball coach Chris Cifelli describes Wallingford as extremely focused and competitive.
“When he immerses himself in something, he really puts everything he’s got into it,” Cifelli said. “I have him in class. When he gets passionate about something, every fiber of him goes into it. So this season has meant a lot to him.
“I feel confident giving him the ball every time he goes out. I think the really big thing for him is he is trying to step in that role of being — and it is a tough job — of getting the ball handed to you in some of the toughest starts. And then we slide him over to shortstop and have him bat third. It is a big expectation …”
But Wallingford likes calling the shots from the rubber and dismisses the pressure of getting batters out.
“I like being able to control the ball,” he said.
The Husson University-bound Wallingford, who will be playing baseball for the Eagles and studying accounting come September, is also a strong hitter.
“I just found my swing this year,” he explained. “It has been a lot better recently.”
“In terms of offense, he is batting .500,” said Cifelli, who had Wallingford’s stats at his disposal, “and his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) is 1.375. So that is pretty good, too.”
Wallingford is also leading the team in extra-base hits, with four, and third on the team in RBIs and leads the Hornets with runs scored at nine.
“So he is quite an offensive threat for us,” Cifelli added. “His ERA is 2.86. He has 15 strikeouts this year and he is 1-1 on the season. He has had a couple of no-decisions.”
Playing a full schedule this season after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of high school sports last year has raised his spirits.
“It is really nice to have a season this year instead of being cancelled,” he said.
Wallingford didn’t allow COVID-19 to stand in the way of playing baseball this past year.
“We lost our season last year, but Matt still found places to play,” Cifelli said. “He has really worked on his craft, whether it will be on his travel team out of Portland or doing it (on) a Legion team. I thought it was a really big plus to get that opportunity.”
His go-to pitch is the fastball, but he is also hard at work mastering the slider and changeup. With a strong defense behind him, he uses contact pitching to get the out. He said he tries to make batters lunge at pitches to make the batter ground out.
“The thing he knows, and he has worked very well with our pitching coach (Mike Hathaway), is finding new ways to get people out and not just relying on a fastball all the time,” Cifelli said. “I think the thing that is happening is he is learning to be a pitcher not a thrower — if that makes sense. He does have a pretty live fastball. It comes out of hand pretty quick.”
In between playing football and schoolwork, Wallingford squeezes in time to play baseball year-round for a travel team.
“I play for the Maine Lightning out of Portland the past couple of years,” Wallingford said. “(Traveling to) Portland isn’t too bad. I enjoy driving.”
Cifelli said game time means go time for Wallingford when he takes the mound.
“He takes his craft really seriously,” Cifelli said. “When he will warm up for a start, he takes a long time, and it is not because it takes him a long time to get warmed up. It is just that he has a very deliberate and a very particular routine.”
It certainly works for Wallingford.