May 9—It's been a roller-coaster final season for Western Kentucky University baseball player Ray Zuberer III, who is wrapping up an outstanding career for the Hilltoppers in 2021.
Zuberer, a former multi-sport superstar at Owensboro Catholic High School, started out like gangbusters, went through a horrendous midseason slump, and has battled out of it in sublime fashion here in the closing stage of the season.
How hot has Zuberer been as of late?
On April 30 at Conference USA rival Marshall, Zuberer had a career day — belting two home runs and two doubles in WKU's 10-6 conquest of the Thundering Herd. It came in the series opener, setting the tone for a Hilltopper three-game sweep.
"Ray," Western coach John Pawlowski simply said. "What a tremendous day."
Entering Saturday's play, the versatile Zuberer — who bats from the left side — was fourth on the squad in hitting (.301), second in doubles (12), second in on-base percentage (.433), tied for first in home runs (7), first in RBIs (32), first in runs scored (39) and first in bases on balls (27).
Moreover, the rock-solid 6-foot, 185-pound Zuberer — who has excelled as both an outfielder and infielder at WKU — leads the Hilltoppers with 13 stolen bases and is yet to be thrown out.
Nothing surprising here, for Zuberer has always been a high achiever and has always expected nothing but the best from himself — a self-motivated standout at every turn.
Zuberer's all-around excellence has helped lead WKU to a 24-22 overall record, including a 14-12 mark in C-USA.
The coolest thing of all is that Zuberer has thrived in a season that might not have been.
Last year, the Hilltoppers' season was short-circuited by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it didn't take long for Zuberer to decide that he didn't want his collegiate career to end that way.
Given the option to return, Zuberer did — citing unfinished business with the WKU baseball program as a primary reason why. As a freshman in 2017, he started eight games and played a key reserve role over the final three months of the season, finishing at .250. Zuberer came into his own as a sophomore, starting 44 games and batting .315, to rank third on the team.
He also tied for third in triples (3), tied for second in walks (24) and tied for third in home runs (3).
As a junior in 2019, Zuberer struggled at the plate (.222), but Pawlowski didn't dare take him out of the lineup due to his superior fielding skills in left field, as well as
his extraordinary leader-
ship. Zuberer found other ways to contribute offensively, scoring 42 runs and driving in 28 runs, with nine doubles and seven homers.
Last spring, prior to Western's season being prematurely halted, Zuberer batted .328, ranking second on the team in slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage
and fifth in batting average. He tied for the team lead in homers (3), was second in RBIs (16) and fourth in runs scored (12).
Any way you slice it, it's been a tremendous run
on the Hill for Ray Zuber-
er III, a true champion
in every sense of the