Just how talented are the only two baseball players to earn repeat selections to the All-Western New York first team selected by area coaches?
Canisius’ Dan Dallas and Lancaster’s Leugim “LG” Castillo are so gifted that both had good excuses for missing the All-WNY photo shoot.
Picture day coincided with Dallas’ second day as a professional with the San Diego Padres’ Rookie League team in Arizona. Castillo, a junior, was busy participating in the Tournament of Stars event in Cary, N.C. The four-game tournament, used by USA Baseball to determine tryout candidates for its 18-under national team, ended June 26 with Castillo’s team capturing first place.
Castillo went 5 for 13 in the event and will learn soon whether he earned an invitation to the national team tryout camp later this summer. If selected, he’ll be among the 40 vying for a spot on the team that will represent Old Glory at the Pan-Am Games in the fall.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Castillo, one of 108 scholastic-age players invited to the tournament. “It’s a blessing. I just had fun doing it. … Every scout in the country shows up to the Tournament of Stars. It just puts my name out to colleges out west and Major League teams.”
The word is already out regarding the athletic 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who has offers from Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.) and Florida. The three-year varsity starter has the speed to track down fly balls in the alley from his centerfield position. He also possesses what coach Mark Dalfonso describes as an “A-plus-plus arm.”
Castillo played error-free baseball in helping Lancaster to a 21-3 record. While most teams opted to pitch around Castillo during the Legends’ run to the Section VI Class AA title, he still hit .492 with 13 of his 29 hits going for extra bases, including seven home runs, in league and postseason play.
Dallas, the Springville native, led Canisius to one of its best seasons ever under 25th-year coach Bryan Tenney. The lefty-throwing Dallas, a seventh-round pick of the Padres, went 10-0 for the 23-1 Crusaders. He recorded 91 strikeouts in 48 innings and posted a 0.15 earned-run average.
Dallas, the Coaches’ All-WNY and Prep Talk Awards Baseball Player of the Year, tossed a no-hitter in his final scholastic start and belted a home run with a wooden bat that cleared the left-centerfield fence at Coca-Cola Field in his last game to help Canisius win the Georgetown Cup title in a two-game sweep over St. Francis. The four-year starter and three-time All-Catholic selection hit .492 with 23 walks, 35 runs scored, 27 RBIs and three home runs.
Canisius, which finished the season ranked first in the Large School Coaches Poll, is the only school to have more than one player selected to the All-WNY first team.
Also earning first team honors was outfielder Zach Mitchell. Mitchell, who is fast with a strong arm, played error-free ball to earn Monsignor Martin Defensive Player of the Year. He’s pretty good on offense, too, as the leadoff hitter (25 hits, 11 walks, 32 runs) set the table for a Crusaders team that averaged nine runs per game.
• Orchard Park’s Ben Wereski has been one of the top pitchers in the area the last two seasons – posting a 9-2 mark in that stretch. The senior lefty earned a first-team nod in 2016 by limiting Class AA foes to a .172 batting average while posting an ERA of 1.65.
• Starpoint’s Matt Cross, a defensive standout at catcher, put up some nice offensive numbers in league play. He collected 16 hits and walked 15 times in 59 plate appearances, scoring 13 runs and driving in another 13.
• Olean’s Jake Cavana capped a senior year in which he helped his school’s basketball team win a state title by leading baseball to a 17-2 mark and a share of the CCAA East Division I title. In addition to playing nearly flawless defense at short, he went 4-0 on the mound and allowed just one earned run in 31 innings.
• Gowanda’s Matt Kruszka moves up to first team after earning honorable mention last season. He finished with three triples and two homers among his 20 hits. The junior is on the college-recruiting radar.
• Williamsville East super sophomore Charlie Mack had 39 hits, scored 37 runs, drove in another 30 and stole 22 bases. When the shortstop moved to the mound, he struck out 29 in 25 innings of work, compiling a 1.40 ERA.
• East Aurora’s Noah Thompson, a five-year starter, also did a little bit of everything. The senior hit .428 with nine of his 27 hits going for extra bases. He also posted an ERA of 0.78 as he struck out 68 in 53 innings.
• Kyle Warner played three positions well for Springville as the Griffins’ captain hit .403 in his fourth and final season with the program.
• Brendan Sheehan capped his Grand Island career by batting .414 and driving in 18 runs. Selected as the All-WNY designated hitter, he’s also a solid glove at first base, making just five errors in three seasons.