The next three knights of the Saint Ignatius baseball roundtable have been selected.
Michael McNamara, Luke Lashutka, and Nick Fletcher have been voted as the next three captains for the Wildcats.
All three played critical roles for the Wildcats during the lengthy playoff run. McNamara started at shortstop and supplied several critical hits, including a leadoff triple in the tenth inning of the state championship game. Lashutka provided eight innings of scoreless relief over two games. Nick Fletcher shut down Darby in the State Semifinal and provided critical innings in a few other games throughout the playoffs.
"They will be three of the go-to guys for next year," said Head Coach Brad Ganor. "It's easy to say now after all of the success they had in the final four. All three will be 3-year guys, they all played varsity as sophomores. Nick got a win, Luke pitched significant innings, and Michael started."
All three men are excellent baseball players, but also great young men. It's no wonder that these three men were voted as captains by their peers.
McNamara is a leader beyond the baseball field. Also an important member of the football team as a running back and linebacker, "Mike Mac" is a dependable young man. He's always there for his teammates and classmates, offering a smile and helping hand when needed.
On the field, McNamara started just about every game for the Baseball Cats at shortstop. He finished the year with a .263 batting average, .418 on-base percentage, and a .484 slugging percentage, second to AJ Gaich. Mac tabbed a team-best 4 homers and 25 RBI, crossing the plate 26 times. He also drew a team-best 24 walks.
"He's super athletic. I think he'll become one of the emotional leaders of the team," Ganor said. "You could see it play out during the last game. As excited he was when he hit the triple in the last innning, you could see how much emotion poured out of him after winning the game. I could see him being an emotional leader for us next year."
Lashutka is a different type of player, but just as effective. More reserved than Mike Mac, Lashutka is just as important to the fabric of the team as a quiet leader.
Lashutka makes his impact on the mound. He logged 44.1 innings, second-only to Andrew Mulhern, starting 8 games and coming on in relief 6 times as an Andrew Miller-type reliever. Lashutka finished with a 5-3 record and a 2.84 ERA, racking up 50 strikeouts against 19 walks. An innings-eater type of pitcher with serious stuff, Lashutka will be critical next year.
"Luke is quiet, but super intense and focus," Ganor said. "He won't be a screamer and yeller, the rah-rah guy, but he'll be the lead-by-example guy, with super intense leadership."
Fletcher is a similar pitcher, with excellent stuff and a quiet confidence about him. Fletch's personality came out over the course of the season, and his leadership skills will be excellent next year.
Fletcher can have an impact in many ways – on the mound, at the plate, and in the field. He will be expected to do so again after a solid campaign, featured by a 6-1 record on the mound in 11 appearances, including 6 starts. Fletch finished with an impressive 1.892 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, striking out 32 against 13 walks. He also played plenty at right field, notching 13 hits and 12 runs, along with 4 RBI.
"He wants the ball, and he gets it. He pounds the strike zone. He's got the ability to be a 2-way guy for us," Ganor said. "That will be important for him next year, to be able to get it done in the field, at the plate, and on the mound. He's definitely a bulldog."
As a group, these three men have a lot to live up to.
Austin Jones, AJ Gaich, Michael Holdsworth, and Matt Geraci did an impressive job this season. The quartet created a welcoming and winning culture inside the program, leading the way for the younger players in the program. Ganor expects the same out of his next Knights of the Roundtable.
"I'm excited to start working with them," Ganor said. "The captains we had this year did a great job of figuring out ways to connect returning players to new players. Next year, we're going to have an equal or similar number of new players to old players again. These guys will have to create that bond and figure out ways that work within their personalities to create that unified team."