N  I  A  G  A  R  A      G  A  Z  E  T  T  E     niagara-gazette.com

Published: June 03, 2009 09:52 pm     

HS BASEBALL: GI senior Podlucky has created his own niche

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — On the gridiron it was Alex Neutz, Eddie Weiser and Lance Robinson. On the diamond it’s Joel Klock, Joe Oliverio and Marv Pawlowski.

Hiding as a diamond in the rough in both sports has been senior Chris Podlucky.

“I might have had other kids the past few years that people would consider studs, but Chris has been as consistent as they come in both sports,” veteran Grand Island football and baseball coach Dean Santorio said. “He’s not flashy… but he does all the little things well and always performs at a high level.”

Podlucky actually doesn’t mind deflecting the attention on his teammates and friends.

“It’s nice to be able to play and be friends with guys of that caliber,” he said. “And being under the radar — it’s not always a bad thing.”

For instance, Podlucky hits behind Nick Kellner, Pawlowski, Klock and Oliverio, arguably the Niagara Frontier’s League’s best version of murderer’s row.

“There always seems to be RBI chances,” he said with a smile.

There’s also been plenty of fielding opportunities for the shortstop this spring. After moving between second base and shortstop the past two seasons, Podlucky found a permanent home at short this year and Santorio couldn’t be happier with his performance.

“He had some issues with his throwing consistency in the past, but he’s proved he belongs there this season,” the coach said. “He’s made some big throws.”

Podlucky said his improvements in the field are more a reflection of his focus on leadership.

“I feel like I need to do well and set the example in the field,” he said. “I like to keep the tempo up in the infield. Actually, I kind of think of it as my infield now.”

Santorio added, “We’ve got underclassmen all around him, but he’s been great at directing the infield and helping the guys understand situations out there.”

A three-year relationship with Oliverio, the Vikings’ backstop, never hurts either.

“Those two are as good as it gets up the middle,” Santorio said. “They’ve caught a couple guys off second this year, which has been huge.”

Those type of plays become critical come playoff time, such as at 7 p.m. today when third-seeded GI faces No. 5 Albion for the Class A title at Coca-Cola Field. The Vikings were seeded first a year ago, but got upset by Cheektowaga, the team they just defeated to advance to today’s final.

“Beating Cheektowaga was the biggest redemption for us… but we’ve still got some work to do,” said Podlucky, who plans to play football and perhaps baseball at Utica next fall. “We’re confident, but not cocky. It’s past the time to be selfish, it’s time for everyone to do well and get the job done.”

Santorio, who played on the last sectional final baseball team from GI in 1985, agreed.

“We’re really looking forward to the opportunity to play for a sectional championship and I can promise you we’re not just satisfied with getting there,” he said. “We want to win it.”