High School Sports

How weightlifting triggered record-setting season for Providence Day baseball standout

Providence Day’s Zach Iverson has set a school record for saves in a season, saves in a career and RBIs. In fact, he’s among the nation's leaders in RBIs.
Providence Day’s Zach Iverson has set a school record for saves in a season, saves in a career and RBIs. In fact, he’s among the nation's leaders in RBIs. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Providence Day senior outfielder Zach Iverson is having one of the best seasons in the school’s baseball history. He said he has the weight room to thank.

As a junior a year ago, Iverson hit .284 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. He said he recieved college interest from Division I schools, but the interest waned by the end of the season.

“I went to a couple (college) camps and some of them came to see me play some games,” Iverson said. “It wasn’t like they told me they didn’t like me, but the texts and emails became less frequent or stopped. It was near the end of my junior year and I decided to make some changes.”

Iverson worked on his game more and lifted weights heavily. In the fall, he enrolled in a weightlifting class at Providence Day and then lifted with a school trainer after school. He lifted at night after daily workouts. A 100-pound bench press became 200. Over time, other things also improved.

“Singles turned into doubles,” Iverson said. “Doubles turned into triples. I was seeing the ball better. It’s made a huge impact in my hitting for the most part.”

Now 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds -- up 20 pounds from last year -- Iverson is hitting .526 with 48 RBIs, six doubles and six home runs. His batting average ranks among the state’s top 50. His RBIs are No. 1 in the state and tied for No. 28 nationally. His six home runs are tied for fourth-most in North Carolina.

As a relief pitcher, Iverson is 2-1 with an 0.98 ERA.

Also this year, he signed to play at Division II Young Harris (Ga.) College and has broken school records: most saves in a season (five, breaking his record of four); most saves in a career (11); and he snapped a 29-year-old school RBIs record.

Mike Sellers hit .511 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs for Providence Day in 1988. That was coach Jim Cerbie’s first season with the Chargers.

Providence Day’s Jim Cerbie has been the Chargers’ coach since 1988. Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

“Someone just asked me the other day about how many kids I’d coached with a season like this,” Cerbie said of Iverson’s senior season. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid with one quite like this. I would have to go back to Mike Sellers and that’s a long time ago.”

Cerbie said he marvels at Iverson’s focus and attention to detail.

“He’s having an outstanding year and giving us outstanding senior leadership,” Cerbie said. “I’m really going to miss the kid. He’s a great kid and he’ll fit in well at Young Harris. He’s very mature and worked extremely hard. He has things in perspective.”

Cerbie said the strength work has turned Iverson into a powerful hitter.

Providence Day’s Zach Iverson is not only a power-hitting outfielder. As a relief pitcher, he has a 2-1 record and 0.98 ERA. Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

“Our softball field is just beyond our baseball fence,” Cerbie said, “and the joke at baseball practice is that (Iverson) can’t hit when they have softball games. Once the game starts, he has to stop (taking batting practice).”

Cerbie said opponents have adjusted to the new version of Iverson.

“People are pitching around him much more,” Cerbie said, “but I am surprised that people have chosen to pitch to him after he hurts them ... instead of pitch around him.”

Tuesday at 7 p.m., Iverson and the Chargers (18-7) will drive a few minutes down Sardis Road to face rival Charlotte Christian (29-3) in the N.C. Independent Schools 3A semifinals. Providence Day lost to Christian in the 2013 state finals, the last time it qualified. Providence Day won the title in 1988, 1997 and 1998.

Iverson wants to leave school with his newfound strength - and a ring.

“I’m pretty proud of myself,” he said. “I’ve been working hard and had some schools overlook me and coaches turn me down, and to have a season like this has been pretty rewarding. Now we have a chance to finish off the season.

“Christian has been my rival for the past six years. We beat them at their place (2-1 on April 27). I have great confidence in my teammates that we can do it again and finally make it back to that state championship.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr