May 27—AUSTIN — Imagine playing baseball in the Southeast Conference and having to bat against Hunter VaDeer.
Many SEC batters have stepped in to face the sophomore from Lyle/Austin Pacelli this spring, but not many have had much success.
The right-handed VaDeer is 6-feet-1 and 195 pounds and he can throw hard. VaDeer is just 16 but his fastball has reached 93 miles per hour. And after putting in plenty of hard work in the offseason, he also has some wicked breaking pitches to complement his fastball.
"It's his offspeed stuff that has been really working for him this year," Lyle/Pacelli coach Brock Meyer said. "He's got better command of it than he has in the past. He's getting stronger and he can go deeper into games."
VaDeer can consistently throw his slider, curveball and changeup for strikes. And all of those pitches come in at top velocity as well, at about 80 miles per hour. That might be quicker than a lot of fastballs some area hitters face.
"It's fun to watch people duck out of the way," Meyer said.
VaDeer has sent most batters back to the dugout via strikeout. He has recorded 95 outs this season and an amazing 82 have been by strikeout.
"On the mound, I can be pretty intense and just aggressive with pitching," VaDeer said. "But I can also be loose and calm at the same time."
VaDeer has posted a 6-1 record with a 0.66 ERA in 31 2/3 innings. He is part of a successful Lyle/Pacelli team that is 18-1 and the No. 1 seed in the Section 1A tournament. He has also been lethal at the plate, hitting .464 with six doubles, three triples, two homers with 28 runs scored, 22 RBIs and 16 steals.
He very well could have been facing Big Nine Conference competition this season. VaDeer was in the Austin School District until the seventh grade. His father, Brock, was then hired as a physical education teacher at Lyle High School so VaDeer transferred from Austin to the Lyle school district.
"I'm happy with the choice I made," VaDeer said. He was also coached by Meyer as a youth player.
"It's nice to know him and I've known all the (Lyle/PacellI) guys for quite some time. It's like a big family there," VaDeer said.
VaDeer is just a sophomore, but this is his third year on the Lyle/Pacelli varsity. He battled a shoulder injury early in his freshman season and didn't do a lot of pitching for the Athletics in 2022. But he batted .543 with two homers, six triples, 32 RBIs and 27 steals as a freshman.
He did a lot of weight lifting in the offseason and worked hard on both his hitting and pitching. He trained three times a week at Mac Strength in Edina.
Last summer he threw in the 84-86 miles per hour range with a top speed of 87. Less than a year later, he consistently throws in the 89-91 range and has topped out at 93.
VaDeer set the tone for his stellar sophomore season in the season opener. He homered in his first at-bat, and on the mound he notched a career-high 17 strikeouts.
"It's always nice to have someone who can throw 90 miles an hour," Meyer said. "But he's a great kid and he's a good teammate for everybody. And he's provided a lot of leadership because he's played a lot of baseball the last couple of summers."
VaDeer said his goal is to play Division I baseball and he has already been contacted by a number of schools, including Iowa, North Carolina, USC, Illinois and Northwestern.
"I'm betting that I will probably end up going as a pitcher, but it would be really cool to go and do both (pitching and hitting) somewhere," VaDeer said.
He started going to baseball camps and showcases in 2020 when he was 13. The majority of those have been in Minnesota, but he has also been at camps at the University of Iowa, Louisville and Missouri.
He will join a team made up of elite Minnesota players in the class of 2025 and 2026 to play in an event in Georgia in August.
"That will be pretty cool," he said.
VaDeer also plans to play summer baseball for Mac Strength out of Edina. That will include playing in tournaments in Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.
But his next step is to try to help L/P earn a state berth.
"We're just hoping to get as far as we can and win one game at a time," VaDeer said. "We definitely have a deep pitching staff so we can mix it up and be good."
VaDeer is also a stellar student as he has achieved all As during his courses in high school. He played football and basketball prior to his sophomore year, but now focuses just on baseball. He also enjoys his free time.
"I like to fish quite a bit and play with my little brother (who is 9)," he said. "He definitely looks up to me so it's nice to be a role model for him and younger guys at the school who look up to me."