Izaiah Santiago has a bright future in front of him at Wallenpaupack Area
One of Wallenpaupack Area’s rising sports stars dazzled on the diamond this past spring.
Although just a freshman, Izaiah Santiago was a fierce competitor in youth sports and at the middle school level before making the jump to high school.
The frosh logged a lot of time in both the batter’s box and in the outfield during baseball season, but was a stranger to neither the pitch nor the hardwood earlier this year.
The overabundance of senior players on this past year’s soccer team meant minutes were going to be hard to come by for underclassmen.
With the exception being a few younger veterans who’d already cut their teeth during the previous season. Given that, Izaiah was more than happy to rack up points playing on the JV squad.
Up front often and typically leading the charge, the freshman led the squad with 25 total points which came by the way of 11 goals and a trio of assists.
It’s difficult to shut out a player with that sort of potential when it came to varsity matches, and Head Coach Scott Bonagura recognized that fact.
Knowing that the Buckhorns were heading into a rebuilding cycle, Bonagura fielded younger players when the opportunity presented itself and Santiago capitalized on those occasions as well.
On the varsity pitch, he tapped in one goal and picked up a pair of assists.
Come winter, Chris Strong faced some of the same dilemmas as did Bonagura. The main difference is that the basketball team was already reorganizing.
Trying to discover a recipe that worked was a bit tedious but on occasion, Santiago was suited up for varsity action. During his time on the court, Izaiah made three shots from the stripe, netted five deuces, and tickled the twine twice with 3-pointers.
When it came to baseball, Santiago saw no shortage of varsity action.
While Head Coach Todd Schmalzle did spit some of his time with other players in left field, Izaiah played in 17 games and ended the season with a .333 average. He had seven hits and seven runs plus he swiped five bases.
Defensively, he had 13 put outs and was a part of one double-play.
When it came to baseball, he earned his keep, and then some, playing among a very experienced group.
However, in basketball and, soccer as well, the talented frosh credited the upperclassmen with aiding in his development.
“There was a little pressure playing with the older guys but they taught me a lot about respecting the game and each other,” Santiago said.
“They taught me to be friends with everyone on the team and to treat each other as equals.
“Everyone helps each other out and everyone gets through things with help from others.”
Out of Uniform
Baseball does seem to be Izaiah’s main sports focus.
During the off-season, he plays for Baseball U of PA and has played in showcase and tournament games in Georgia.
However, if baseball isn’t a possibility when he finally goes off to college, it won’t be the end of the world for this brainy fan of the New York Knicks, Giants, and Yankees.
A member of the Junior National Honor Society, Santiago has his sights set on obtaining an electrical engineering degree, but admittedly, he really hasn’t started looking at universities as of yet.
“I like technology,” he said. “Technology is a big part of the world and it can really help the world. I would like to be a part of that.
“I’m looking for a college that is going to give me and education and help me be a better person, and if possible, play baseball.”
Izaiah attends Parker Hill Community Church and draws much of his inspiration from his family.
He’s helped with roadside clean-ups and with improvement projects at the Hawley library.
Along with a few other freshmen, has also served on the school’s Athletic Council.
More to Come
Three-sport athletes are becoming a rarity among the Buckhorn boys.
Those that are, tend to excel at one, make solid contributions at another, and use the third as a means to stay conditioned.
Izaiah is the type of athlete who probably can become a team leader, three seasons a year.
Whether one speaks with Bonagura, Strong, or Schmalzle, each coach essentially has had the same thing to say about Izaiah all year. All three have cited his willingness to work, his affability, and his team mentality.
When the calendar page flips to June 2020, don’t be surprised if you’ll be reading something about Izaiah again, not just potentially for athletics but academics as well.
He’s the type of individual that has the ability to be the well-rounded type of graduate that could be lauded beyond the Wallenpaupack Area School District.