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An injury may have derailed his junior season, but Zach Piazza’s collegiate career is right on track after the Huntingtown High School senior recently inked a letter of intent to play baseball at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“I’m very excited and I’m blessed to have this opportunity,” said Piazza, the Hurricanes’ shortstop said. “Baseball’s my love and the first thing I’d like to do, so I’m glad I can further play baseball outside of high school.”

The 18-year-old Huntingtown resident also considered offers from the University of Maryland College Park and Winthrop University (S.C.) — where former teammate Joey Strain is currently playing — but in the end decided to become a Demon Deacon.

“It was just my favorite place, I can’t wait to get down there,” said Piazza, who also visited Maryland and Winthrop and made his official visit to Wake last summer. “It was just the competition and the coaches; the coaches were great, I can’t wait to play for them.”

He visited the Terrapins campus with Huntingtown head baseball coach Guy Smith, Jr., a Maryland alum.

“I took Zach on a visit with his family in the winter to see the facilities, coaches and campus a few times,” Smith said. “We watched a basketball game and did the full baseball complex tour. He loved the school and environment, [but] he just fell in love with Wake. Zach thought I would be disappointed and it took him awhile to tell me. I explained to him as long as he is happy and successful, life is good.”

Though Piazza plans to suit up for an Atlantic Coast Conference rival, Smith said he thinks his senior made a good choice.

“Wake is a great fit for Zach,” Smith said. “He will have the opportunity to play in the ACC at a great complex and obtain a degree at an outstanding institution. Zach fell in love with the campus, coaches and his teammates.”

It appeared his baseball career at Huntingtown was beginning to take form as Piazza played shortstop on the junior varsity team as a freshman and was the team’s starting shortstop his sophomore season. But that all fell apart last season after Piazza tore ligaments in his thumb during the preseason.

“It hurt [to watch], but it also made me better and it made me analyze stuff and just made me want to get on the field so much more this year,” said Piazza, who watched as the Hurricanes won 15 of 21 games. “You have to have a strong mental aspect in order to come back from something and hopefully this [senior] year shows that I have a strong mental aspect by getting back on the field. Yeah [it killed me], but it was good [to see them be successful] because they’re my friends; I’ve been playing with them forever.”

Smith said the loss of Piazza for the season was not easy.

“Losing our best player was extremely difficult to overcome,” he said. “As a team, we had to move two to three players around to fill the void he left. Zach and I sat down after the injury and we made him part of the coaching staff. He was at practice daily and attended all games. He was given practice rolls and game day coaching responsibilities. I wanted to use this as a teaching tool for him to improve his overall game.”

Piazza was also the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes, who last fall reached the Class 3A state championship game. He passed for 1,282 yards and 17 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 107, but said life as a college football player was never really in the cards.

“No, not at all,” said Piazza, who received football interest from Coastal Carolina University (S.C.). “Football was something I had fun with and liked to do, [but] baseball’s more ... my job. I like doing it and it’s more fun. Once we went to states, I knew that was my last time playing football and I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander plans to major in business management at Wake Forest.

“I need to go in there and play as well as I can and be a better teammate and person and help them win,” Piazza said. “You can improve on everything. There’s just so much competition in college and high school that you can always do better.”

The Demon Deacons are coached by Tom Walter, who is in his fourth season.

“Zach is a utility-type player who has an outstanding bat,” Walter said in a Jan. 15 Wake Forest press release. “He is a very good athlete who provides us with some versatility and toughness that we have lacked. Most importantly, he is a winner and brings that winner’s mentality to our clubhouse.”

Smith said the Demon Deacons have landed a prize prospect in Piazza, who has been an ESPN Preseason All-State and All-American the last two years.

“Zach is a total athlete,” Smith said. “[Wake is] getting a player that can play anywhere on the field. His is a gamer with an A-plus competitive nature about him. He is extremely hard-working on the field and in the classroom. He is one of the most competitive players I have ever been involved with. Losing or failing is never acceptable for Zach.”

mreid@somdnews.com