There were times Williamsville North's Josh Surowiec kind of got lost in the shadow cast by Major Baseball League prospect Leugim Castillo of Lancaster.
He wasn't the only Western New York talent, and it's understandable. Castillo more than lived up to all the preseason accolades he garnered en route to being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and earning second-team All-America from Max Preps.
Surowiec, though, also proved an absolute force during the season. He was a nightmare for opponents in the batter's box and on the mound and had a knack for delivering in the clutch.
Those facts didn't go unnoticed, which is why Surowiec and Castillo were named co-Players of the Year by area coaches. The talented rivals highlight the 12-player All-Western New York first team, which also was selected by the baseball coaches.
"LG is a great kid; he's got five tools," longtime North coach Jerry Scarcella said. "But you can't take anything away from either of these guys. … Josh was just absolutely fantastic for us. Almost a .600 hitter for us, 5-0 on the mound, the kid is legitimate."
"He was excellent," Lancaster coach Mark Dalfonso said of Surowiec.
The Players of the Year definitely had eye-catching resumes.
Castillo, the Buffalo News' Prep Talk Awards Player of the Year in baseball and a repeat All-WNY first-team selection, recorded a .588 average with nine home runs, 26 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, a .622 on-base percentage and a 1.028 slugging percentage. The center fielder received nine intentional walks for a Legends team that won 15 in a row after a season-opening loss to Surowiec's Spartans.
Surowiec,a first baseman and pitcher who will continue his career at Mercyhurst, drove in the winning run in that walk-off triumph and then had a huge hand in North's sectional semifinal win over Lancaster. He earned the pitching win in that playoff game played across two days due to weather – yielding one run in five innings. And he gave the Spartans their first lead in that contest with a fifth-inning home run.
Surowiec, who also served as a captain on the Spartans' state championship hockey team, recorded a .596 average with five homers, five triples, five doubles and 24 RBIs. He also went 5-0 on the mound, fanning 40 in 40.2 innings while compiling a 1.38 earned-run average. He limited opponents to a .219 batting average. Scarcella said he only pitched Surowiec against top teams.
"He's just a competitor," Scarcella said. "We had several kids from the hockey team (playing baseball). Going on that playoff run, those kids were exhausted and beat up but he would not take any days off. He showed up right from hockey to baseball. There were times he'd go from our preseason practices to hockey practice and vice versa. … You have to root for this kid. He's just a fantastic kid."
Surowiec ranks as the program's all-time leader in doubles, home runs and hits.
"He may be the best overall player we've ever had, at least in my 20 years at North," Scarcella said. "I think you're going to see big things from him in college."
-- Joining Castillo as a repeat All-WNY first-team selection is Gowanda's Matt Kruszka. The senior shortstop completed his sixth season, batting .457 for the Panthers. Coach Tim Smith said having Kruszka around was like having an extra assistant coach because of his knowledge for the game.
-- In addition to Castillo, Lancaster had two others earn first-team honors. They were senior pitcher Collin Reformat and junior infielder Ben Damiani. Reformat posted a 5-1 record with a 1.58 ERA. Damiani had the second-highest batting average on the Legends (.417) and was a solid defensively at first base.
-- Garrett Boldt played a vital role in Olean capturing the overall Section VI Class A title as he batted .525 with 32 hits and 32 runs scored. The speedy senior outfielder, who also earned All-WNY first team laurels during the football season, will continue his baseball career at Division I Campbell in North Carolina.
-- Maryvale's Mike Flemming and St. Joe's Dennis Gagliardo earned first-team spots at catcher. Both seniors did fine jobs at keeping opposing teams' running games in check.
While Flemming deterred foes from running on him, he ran freely on them as he swiped 10 bases. He had a fielding percentage of .991.
Gagliardo allowed only three stolen bases – throwing out 81 percent of base runners – in helping St. Joe's win its first Georgetown Cup championship in four years. He finished with a fielding percentage of 1.000.
-- Orchard Park senior Cole Hollins earned a spot as the designated hitter but also is a fine defensive outfielder with a great arm, according to coach Jim Gibson. Hollins had five assists throwing runners out at either third base or home. He hit .392 with 21 RBIs and scored 15 runs.
-- Kenmore West senior outfielder Benny Serrano served as captain for both the school's baseball and hockey teams. The Niagara baseball commit finished with a .500 average and 28 RBIs.
-- Wilson junior John Bender earns a spot as an infielder as he flaunted his versatility during a season in which he set the Section VI record for highest batting average in a season (.651) and also pitched a perfect game.
-- Alden junior Tom Bednarski earned pitcher-of-the-year honors in his league for the second year in a row after posting an 8-0 mark with 1.17 ERA.