Bret Matthys juggles multiple roles for Corn Dogs

Rest? Bret Matthys doesn’t need any.

The 2021 Hanover Central graduate recently finished his freshman year at Purdue Northwest and has a packed schedule for the summer. Matthys is playing multiple positions for the Lake County Corn Dogs, the newest team in the Northern League, while juggling a pair of part-time jobs and finding time for one more hobby.

“A lot of golf too,” he said. “A little rest wouldn’t hurt, but… I’m still young.”

Matthys is coming off a successful first season at the college level after leading Hanover Central to the Class 3A state championship game in 2021. He hit .295 in 41 games and had a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings pitched for Purdue Northwest.

The left-hander smiled as he talked about his final start: no earned runs allowed on 87 pitches over 8 ⅓ innings during a win against Wayne State in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

“It was kind of a weird outing,” Matthys said. “They were swinging at the first pitch a lot, so I probably threw about 70% change-ups. But I did my job, and we won in 12 innings.”

That outing was his signature game and backed up his view about how the season progressed overall. After going 0-for-5 in a doubleheader against Lewis on March 20, Matthys was hitting .206. Over the final two months of the season, however, he boosted his average to nearly .300.

“I expected to struggle in the early portions of the season,” Matthys said. “But as I started seeing the different types of pitchers the other teams had, I got more comfortable, and my stats showed that. It was a fun season.”

Lake County manager Justin Huisman hadn’t seen Matthys play before the Corn Dogs’ season started, but his review of Matthys’ stats and what he had heard from his baseball contacts told him enough.

“I knew we were getting a pretty good player,” Huisman said. “He’s been fun to watch because he’s just a smart, versatile player. He hits well to all fields, he throws multiple pitches for strikes and you know that he’s going to compete whenever he’s out there.”

While all teams in the Northern League boast athletes who can pitch and play the field, Huisman said Matthys’ level of versatility is rare.

“He’s been a joy to have because he runs well enough to play in the outfield, but he also plays first base, and I’ve even put him at DH a few times to rest his arm after he pitches,” Huisman said.

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An occasional hitting-only role could be the closest Matthys comes to rest this summer, although Huisman said he will keep an eye on Matthys’ innings to ensure he’s not overused. Matthys has pitched in just four games with the Corn Dogs, recording a 3.38 ERA in eight innings.

Meanwhile, Matthys is hitting .327 in 49 at-bats. His swing apparently is unaffected by all the golf he has been playing this summer.

“I’ve found a way to differentiate the swings,” he said.

He started to explain the subtle differences before pointing to his head and saying, “Mentally, I’ve found a way.”

Matthys said he is working on his arm mobility this summer to try to add a little more velocity to his fastball, which he said hovers around 84 mph.

“Maybe I can get it consistently around 86,” he said. “It’s an extra thing to add because … why not?”

Dave Melton is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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