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Nathan Galambos 'an unsung hero' for Rootstown

Rootstown starting pitcher Nathan Galambos delivers in the third inning of their district semifinal against Cardinal Mooney at Cene Park in Struthers.
Rootstown starting pitcher Nathan Galambos delivers in the third inning of their district semifinal against Cardinal Mooney at Cene Park in Struthers.

Losing an ace can derail a season.

It didn't for the Division III Struthers District runner-up Rovers.

That was thanks in no small part to the work of Rootstown's Nathan Galambos, who finished his senior season with an ERA of 1.12.

"He's just been sensational," Rovers coach Keith Waesch said after Galambos picked up the victory in the district semifinals against Cardinal Mooney. "[He] really was an unsung hero. I'll remember this effort and these efforts of his 2022 for a long time."

His efforts included two clutch performances to lead Rootstown back to the district championship game. First, he bounced back from a three-run top of the second with five scoreless innings to top Garfield in the sectional championship game. Then, Galambos allowed a single run in five gutsy innings against Cardinal Mooney.

"He's been a leader for sure, especially pitching," Rootstown senior Blake Bower said. "He's been a huge help for us. I didn't expect him to do that honestly. I really didn't."

No one could have, since his role changed dramatically midway through the season.

When the Rovers lost ace Mason Bartholomy early in the 2022 campaign after they already had to deal with the graduation of Adam Beery (Ohio University) and Matt Brown (Notre Dame College), they didn't just lose a dominant hurler.

They lost a senior who was expected to start big games for Rootstown.

They lost a pitcher who was supposed to soak up a massive number of innings.

The Rovers weren't just losing a physical presence on the mound.

They lost a pitcher who always inspired confidence when he was on the mound.

In stepped Galambos to fill the void.

"I got a lot of pressure, but when it was in the middle of a game, I didn't want to put that on anybody else," Galambos said. "I figured I got to just pitch for my team, that's really it. I want to pick up where he stopped, because I wouldn't put myself on Mason's level, but I hope to get there, or at least go for it."

Whether it was pitching magnificent games in 1-0 losses to Mogadore and Warren JFK or tossing gems in a sectional title win over Garfield and a district semifinal victory against Cardinal Mooney, Galambos lifted the Rovers' confidence right back up.

"I didn't expect Mason to get hurt," Bower said. "It brought me down personally during that game, but [Nathan] is a guy that will lift everybody up."

Galambos did it without a big-time heater.

While his curveball was certainly a plus pitch, Galambos generally didn't rack up a bunch of strikeouts, with 29 in 43 innings this season.

What he did do was penetrate the strike zone, scattering just eight walks.

"We're not asking him to go out and strike out seven, eight, nine kids a ballgame," Waesch said. "We're asking him to go out, put the ball in the strike zone and give our defense a chance to make plays and that's exactly what he's done for us this year."

Galambos demonstrated an impressive ability to paint the outer black with fastballs and toss curves that dropped below the knees and others that fell right into the zone.

"It's his consistency for sure," Bower said. "I mean he's not a guy who will overpower somebody. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts but he gets outs and that's what's important and I love playing behind him."

Great command.

The ability to coerce weak contact.

All leading to a minuscule ERA.

Galambos' equation for success always invited comparisons to the longtime great Greg Maddux, but it's not like Galambos sought to be Maddux or any one pitcher.

"I wouldn't say I have like one person I'll watch in the MLB or something," Galambos said. "Just I've always loved pitching. I love just being able to pace the game basically."

What stood out watching Galambos as he got in various jams throughout the postseason, whether it was the G-Men sending nine hitters to the plate against him in the second inning of their sectional final or the Cardinals starting to get some hits off the right-hander in the latter innings, was that nothing could knock him off that pace.

"I almost blank the batter out," Galambos said. "I just picture the box and I just wait to see where my coach tells me, where to move to and I go for it. I just attack it."

In Galambos' final start of the season, he was nothing short of superb in limiting a loaded Mooney team to a single run in five innings.

It was vintage Galambos.

He walked just one hitter.

He was as efficient as can be, never tossing more than 18 pitches in an inning.

In three straight innings, the Cardinals put a runner on base with one out. All three times, Galambos got the next batter to put a pitch in the air for out number two.

In the final frame, Galambos allowed a two-out hit, then snagged a liner headed his way to put an end to the rally before the Rovers walked it off in the bottom of the fifth.

"Gritty performance, tremendous poise," Waesch said. "Just a kid that has worked so hard and really never worked so much on his pitching [before this year] because he didn't have to and he's kind of been thrown into the fire and somehow he's just battled to the point where he has to the district final and it's just amazing."

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Nathan Galambos 'an unsung hero' for Rootstown baseball