By CLINT FOSTER
SANTO – After a 2014 baseball campaign that saw the Santo Wildcats claw their way into second place in District 10-1A and claim a 16th straight playoff appearance, the 'Cats were vindicated by earning 10 spots on their all-district team last week, including two superlative awards.
Of Santo's 10 selections, eight were juniors and nine will return for next season.
Senior catcher Garrett Nemeth was named the district's Most Valuable Player and junior pitcher Dylan Swinney took the title of Defensive MVP.
In his final season at Santo, Nemeth was nothing short of incredible at the plate. Batting a jaw-dropping .636 on the year, he led the team in average, on-base percentage (.700) and home runs and tied for the team leads in RBI, with 30, and runs scored, with 36.
He had a team-high 16 extra-base hits, including 11 doubles, and struck out the fewest times of any Santo hitter with at least 10 at-bats, registering just three Ks on the season.
As bright as Santo's baseball future looks with so many returning starters, there is little doubt that Nemeth's production will be sorely missed.
"Nemeth was our big bat this year hitting in the three hole," head coach Brandon Young said. "He was very consistent at the plate and also did a good job calling pitches behind the plate."
In his senior season, Nemeth caught no pitcher more than Swinney, District 10's Defensive MVP. Through a team-high 35-2/3 innings, the junior posted a perfect 6-0 record and a team-high 72 strikeouts.
Swinney had a 4.12 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, both the best of any Santo pitcher with at least five game appearances.
Swinney was the foundation of a pitching staff that Young said had a lot of question marks heading into the 2014 season. Now he has established himself truly as a force to be reckoned with heading into his senior year.