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BASEBALL PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Zach Graveno, Lambert
Longhorns senior made most of his year out of the shadows
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Lambert senior Zach Graveno had a breakout season, starting the year without allowing a run in his first 42 2/3 innings and finishing 10-0 with a 0.53 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings to help the Longhorns win the Region 6-AAAAAA championship and reach the state quarterfinals. - photo by Micah Green

At a place like Lambert, waiting is part of the game.

With such a deep, talented baseball program—one that has a state and national title in the last three years—the pressure to perform is high. Elite athletes roll through, while other elite players spend time anxiously waiting for their turn at stardom.

In 2015, Zach Graveno was just a name in Lambert’s bullpen. In eight appearances as a junior he finished with the highest ERA on the team—a 3.89—despite logging a more than respectable 2-1 mark in region play. In front of him was J.D. Dutka, now with Florida Southwestern; Seth Beer, recently named the ACC Player of the Year as a freshman; Turner Scruggs, who would verbally commit to Winthrop during the season; and Cole Varner.

Varner and Scruggs were successful juniors, so Graveno had to sit and wait while his classmates earned attention from scouts on the mound. After all, Lambert was coming off a historic state championship season and had plenty of attention along with it.

Graveno finally slid into a starting role in 2015, and boy—did he flourish.

For the first 42 2/3 innings of his season, Graveno did not allow an earned run. By the time the season was over the FCN already coined the nickname “Great Graveno,” a play-on-words related to a legendary baseball moniker for Babe Ruth. So, Graveno wasn’t smacking home runs with ease—he was just preventing them for opponents.

Graveno’s senior stats were phenomenal. He finished with a 10-1 record, a 0.53 ERA, 70 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings and was the top ace in a three-headed staff, along with Scruggs and Varner, that led Lambert to a Region 6-AAAAAA championship. For the second straight year Lambert’s playoff run fell short, but Graveno’s outstanding season did not go unnoticed.

On April 30, Graveno announced he had taken an offer to play collegiately at Mercer University in Macon. It’s a diamond-in-the-rough program, which makes sense for a late-blooming prospect. The Bears just finished as Southern Conference champions in Division I with a 16-8 record and nearly made their second NCAA regional in as many years. They also just produced the Baseball America Player of the Year in another overlooked player coming out of high school in Shiloh’s Kyle Lewis.