Vanek earned Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A all-state honors while batting .384 and excelled under pressure while helping lead the Bucs to their second consecutive state championship.
In the semifinals against District 3-5A rival Sam Houston, Vanek’s single moved Kyle De-Barge to third in the 11th inning. DeBarge eventually scored the winning run. He also had three hits and two RBIs in the Bucs’ 5-0 win over West Monroe in the championship game.
“That was awesome,” Vanek said. “It is a crazy experience going out there as a sophomore, being able to experience that and playing in front of that type of crowd.
“It was a really big stage and I feel like I play better on the big stage.”
Vanek has pushed himself to become faster on the bases this summer. Playing for the Knights Knation Marucci 16U Gray team at the Future Stars Series 2023 Grads tournament Tuesday in Moss Bluff, he had a hit and a stolen base in a 2-1 win over Next Level baseball.
Vanek says his recovery has been going smoothly, and he pitched his first bullpen session Monday since his Aug. 14 surgery. He said he expects to be at 100 percent by the time the 2022 season starts.
“My first bullpen felt really good,” Vanek said. “I am still at 75 to 90 percent, but my arm feels electric.
‘I am really looking forward to pitching. I can’t wait to get back on that mound with all my guys behind me. My home is on the mound. There is nothing better than being on that Friday night mound at Barbe.”
With more experience in the batter’s box, Vanek said it will help him to better attack hitters once he returns to the mound.
“Being a position player made me focus a lot more,” Vanek said. “Whenever I was a pitcher, I would come in the dugout and sit down between innings.
“I wouldn’t really focus on the game. I would just do my own thing and make sure I was ready to go. Watching position players all year, I can see tendencies. You pick up stuff really fast, and I feel like that has helped me the most and is going to get me back on the mound.”