by John Goralski
Dave Palladino’s game face finally cracked as he grabbed the pen and scribbled his signature across the page. The Southington catcher didn’t smile during either of his no-hitters. He didn’t smile at home plate after any of his three home runs as a senior.
Palladino has become known for his serious approach and his game face, but he couldn’t stifle a small grin as he joined a growing list of future Southington High School graduates that have already committed to college programs.
“I really didn’t think I would play college baseball until last year,” he said to reporters with the hint of a smile playing across his face. “It’s just a good feeling. I’m not ready to hang up the cleats. I want to keep playing.”
The Knights have already signed two players to NCAA division I programs with Ted Shaw (Sacred Heart) and Brett Susi (Central CT State University). Matt Sirois (Norwich) and Matt DiNello (Merrimack) are both expecting to challenge for playing time as freshman, and Palladino has become the fifth player to commit.
It’s a good reflection on a program that continues to advance in postseason tournaments, and for two seasons Palladino has been at the center of Southington’s success.
“It says that we bring in a lot of athletes,” he said. “It also reflects on the coaching staff. They pick the right kids to play certain spots and are able to develop them in order go on to the next level.”
Palladino rose quickly within the Blue Knight organization. As a junior, he rose to prominence as a .288 varsity hitter with nine RBI and a trio of doubles. Through 18 games this season, Palladino has gone 16-for-50 (.320) with six extra base hits, including a trio of home runs and 15 RBI.
But it’s behind the plate that Palladino has really made his name. As a junior, he managed to secure a .974 fielding percentage at catcher, and he’s managed to find himself behind the plate for a pair of varsity no-hitters from two different pitchers. Both pitchers went on to sign division one contracts, and one opted to pursue a professional career. Palladino called both no-hitters highlights in his varsity career.
“I was nervous both times, especially when it came down to spotting pitches” Palladino said. “If they missed by an inch, it could have been a hit. I didn’t want it to be on me.”
That fact didn’t escape the notice of Eastern’s scouts. Blue Knight coach Charlie Lembo said that it was Palladino’s poise behind the plate that makes him a good collegiate prospect.
“He is a strong player behind the plate. He does a good job managing pitchers and fielding his position,” said Lembo. “He has power and patience as a batter. He can block pitches and has a great arm.”
Palladino’s decision to play at Eastern comes on the heels of Coach Bill Holowaty’s announcement that he will retire at the end of this season, but Palladino said that he remains committed to the program.
“I felt comfortable with everything there when I went for a camp in August, but I’m going there for more than baseball,” he said. “It’s too bad that he left, but I’m still happy to just play baseball. When Holowaty recruited me, he said they needed catching. I’m going to go in there, work hard and hopefully start as soon as possible.”
Nobody doubts it.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.