Dankanich a top dog at N-G

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Andrew Dankanich still prefers the underdog role.

Despite becoming one of the best all-around players in the Philadelphia Catholic League over the past few seasons, the South Philly native and senior centerfielder for the Neumann-Goretti High School baseball team continues to approach each game — and life in general — like he’s still trying to crack the lineup.

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“He’s probably the smartest kid on our team,” Neumann-Goretti coach Nick Nardini said. “He has the highest GPA and he’s at the top of his class. But he’s a super hard-working kid, too. He’s been incredible to coach. He will do anything I ask him to do.”

Dankanich recently graduated sixth in his class out of nearly 150 students at Neumann-Goretti. He will continue his education, studying biology at West Chester University with the hopes of someday becoming a doctor. Only recently did Dankanich decide to possibly extend his baseball career.

“(West Chester) was a pretty easy decision for me,” Dankanich said. “But I wasn’t originally planning on playing baseball there. I was just going for school. But with this year going how it’s been going for me, and my coaches encouraging me to play, I’m going to try and walk on. There’s no reason not to.”

He’ll once again be in that underdog role, trying to crack a lineup on a college team, but he’s certainly capable. Dankanich’s bat, glove, smarts and wheels make him one of the most talented and reliable players in the Catholic League. Heading into the Class 3A state semifinal, Dankanich had a .380 batting average and led the team in runs (24), hits (30) and stolen bases (23).

Andrew Dankanich looks back to his teammates after an RBI single in the state playoff tournament. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“We think he can play there,” Nardini said of West Chester. “I think he’s going to be a preferred walk-on. We’ve been talking to their coach, saying, ‘This kid can really play.’ Any coach would be really glad to have a guy like him.”

Dankanich enjoys the challenge.

“Of course. It’s the only way to do it,” he said. “I didn’t get offers, but I didn’t really try to put myself out there. So, why not just go out and show them what I got? There’s no reason not to. I’ve been playing baseball for 15 years, so why stop now?”

Unquestionably, this is the most fun he’s had playing baseball. Dankanich is part of an enormous senior class that shares a special bond. 

“This season has been great,” Dankanich said. “I have 12 seniors with me. These are all my boys. I’ve probably known most of them for about 10 years. We made the (Philadelphia Catholic League) championship and fell short but we still want to get to Penn State. If we can get there and come out on top, it would be unbelievable.”

Andrew Dankanich leads off second base in a game against Salisbury. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Neumann-Goretti was scheduled to play Trinity High School in the Class 3A state semifinal on June 10 at Muhlenberg High School in Reading at 4 p.m. If they win, they will play for a state championship at Penn State University on June 14. With Dankanich continuing his outstanding play, the Saints always have a shot.

“Frankly, he’s been one of our best players, if not our best guy down the stretch,” Nardini said. “Just a senior stepping up. Really, he’s just been awesome for us and he’s been hitting the ball on the screws for the last month. Even his outs are hard. And he plays a fantastic centerfield. Nothing falls in either gap. He’s been a crutch we really lean on.”

Dankanich leans on his teammates as he enjoys every moment of the season. Even an underdog appreciates a lift sometimes.

“It stinks to know that it’s coming to an end, but I really don’t want to think about it like that,” Dankanich said. “I’m out here today stretching before the game, thinking this could be our last game, but I don’t want to accept that. It just doesn’t set with me. I know we’re going to win.”

Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro is a reporter for the South Philly Review. Follow him on Twitter @mzimmaro or email at mzimmaro@newspapermediagroup.com

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