Baseball: St. Francis' Kosmetatos could do it all
Like a sore thumb...
That's the way St. Francis baseball coach Nick Hall describes how Nick Kosmetatos stood out among so many other eighth-graders trying to make an impression.
Only Kosmetatos didn't need to try.
Smoothly and effortlessly Kosmetatos performed drill after drill at the summer camp. He vacuumed every groundball. Lasered it to first base. Line drives stung off his bat.
Even then Hall knew Kosmetatos had game-changing potential. And as a freshman, after a handful of weeks on the sophomore level, Kosmetatos slotted into the varsity lineup to stay.
"You could just tell in everything he did, even as a 14-year-old," Hall said. "You just knew he was special."
Four years later, special doesn't begin to sum up the impact Kosmetatos made on St. Francis baseball. Ace of the pitching staff, cornerstone on the left side of the infield and terrifying stick in the heart of the batting order.
Blessed with an overflowing toolbox, Nick Kosmetatos is the 2019 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Baseball Captain.
"I think it's all confidence," Kosmetatos said. "It's one-on-one whether you're pitching or hitting, and I wasn't going to give in. I wanted to show that I could do it all out there."
Kosmetatos didn't expect to pitch on May 23 in the Class 3A Plano regional semifinals against Sandwich.
He also didn't expect it to be his last game with St. Francis.
After starting pitcher Jeff Clark was hit in the neck by a second-inning line drive, Kosmetatos shifted from shortstop to the mound with the Spartans trailing 4-0. He proceeded to retire 14 straight batters and launch his seventh home run of the season to help tie the game at 4-4.
Kosmetatos gutted out an 8-inning relief performance, striking out 14 and walking none. As the senior approached his pitch-count limit, Sandwich finally broke through for 3 runs in the 10th inning to eliminate the Spartans 7-4.
"When he comes in to pitch, the confidence of the entire team jumps up," said St. Francis senior catcher Trevor Hicks, a three-year starter like Kosmetatos. "He was a great player as a sophomore, but the growth he had from then to senior year was incredible. He just has nasty stuff."
There was nothing more Kosmetatos could give to his team on that disappointing day in Plano. Even in defeat, though, it'll go down as an epic performance.
"I wasn't prepared for anything like that, but my arm felt perfect and I was just dealing," Kosmetatos said. "Even though we lost, it was a fun game to be a part of."
Kosmetatos settled in at shortstop this season after playing third base the previous two years and second base in the final 10 varsity games of his freshman year. He committed to Butler University and coach Dave Schrage, knowing he'd go there as a projected third baseman near the top of the lineup.
"The grind will start again and I can't wait for it," he said. "I'm ready for it."
Kosmetatos graduates from St. Francis with 13 home runs, 79 RBI and a .414 batting average. This season he hit .350 with 7 homers and 22 RBI, although his most impressive numbers came during his sophomore and junior seasons competing against some of the state's top teams in the Chicago Catholic League Blue.
"We really liked what we saw from him," Schrage said. "He fit what we're looking for at Butler. He's a good student, a good kid and a good teammate."
Then something interesting happened this season. Kosmetatos became a Division I-caliber pitcher.
He won nine games and had 102 strikeouts against only 9 walks. The hard-throwing right-hander sat in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball and touched 90. Three of the 4 earned runs he allowed came in the 10th inning of that Sandwich game, giving him a 0.47 ERA in 59⅓ innings.
His senior season at St. Francis changed everything about Kosmetatos' next-level potential.
"(Hall) contacted me and said, 'You might have gotten yourself a two-way player,'" Schrage said. "We really wanted him as someone on the left side of our infield, but I'm excited to see him throw. We'll give him that opportunity in the fall."
Thinking Kosmetatos might be an unknown during a Spring Break trip to Florida, Hall tried hiding his best hitter in the two spot in the lineup. Didn't matter.
"Even in Florida they were pitching around him," Hall said. "He can't even leave the state and get good pitches. He's the only kid on our team getting 2-0 curveballs."
Regardless of the decrease in offensive numbers this season, it's those one-on-one showdowns Kosmetatos continues to cherish. If they didn't occur at the plate because he was pitched around, he found them on the mound. And most of the time on the mound this season, he won.
The standout just kept standing out like a sore thumb.
"I've been around baseball my whole life and I've always liked the competition," Kosmetatos said. "This season is something I'll always remember."