Dermo a leader for La Salle

Posted: June 10, 2014

YEARS FROM NOW, when Nick Dermo is learning how to construct bridges or buildings as a civil engineering major at Penn State University, he won't be too far from the place where he earned high school baseball glory.

However, as a sophomore catcher on La Salle High's 2012 squad, Dermo was buried on the depth chart while the Explorers claimed the Class AAAA state championship at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Today at 4 p.m., with a return trip to Medlar at stake, Dermo, now a senior captain and first-team All-Catholic League coaches' selection, will lead La Salle against Spring-Ford (District 1) in the PIAA semifinals at Neumann University.

Meanwhile, in Class AA play, Ss. Neumann-Goretti will face District 4 No. 1-seed Loyalsock Township at Northern York in Dillsburg, also at 4 p.m. The Saints will be led by freshly drafted slugger Josh Ockimey, who was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

As for Dermo, who didn't crack the lineup until late last season, rest-assured that the Plymouth Meeting resident doesn't take the responsibility lightly. Senior slugger/ace pitcher Dom Cuoci is the other La Salle captain.

"It makes me feel great," Dermo said. "I knew senior year would come around and it would really be my time to step forward and take control of myself, my game and try and be a leader for the whole team."

Whether blocking a low curveball in the dirt to save a run or throwing a runner out on the basepaths, Dermo likes to be in the middle of the action.

"I love being a catcher," he said. "Playing other positions kinda seems boring, well, not boring, but you're involved in every play of the game and you really feel your effect on the game when working with the pitchers."

But cramming your 6-foot, 185-pound frame into all that gear, crouching nearly 100 times in sometimes stifling heat, clad in an unforgiving mask, can't be all gravy, can it?

"Can the hardest part also be the part I like the most?" Dermo asked with a laugh. "Just being part of every single play, you always have to be 100 percent alert and know what's going on. That's really the most difficult part."

Even though his attention briefly wavered in La Salle's 3-1 quarterfinal triumph against Hazleton last week, the resulting passed ball didn't shake his confidence for long.

"The kid squared around to bunt and I just missed the ball," Dermo said. "I was pretty hard on myself, but luckily they didn't score because [starting pitcher] John Scheffey got us out of the inning. I was hard on myself, but later in the game, I blocked a curve in the dirt and threw the kid out at second to get the final out of the inning."

Dermo hopes to use that same bounce-back ability for the club team at Penn State, where he hopes to play alongside former La Salle teammate Joe Picard (2013) next season.

The Nittany Lions, the Division 1 National Club Baseball Association national champions in 2013, play at the Shaner Baseball Complex, about 10 miles from Medlar. And with a lighter schedule than a Division I program, the 4.2 GPA student can focus more on academia.

"I've always been a science-and-math guy and I knew I wanted to do something with engineering," Dermo said. "So, I picked Penn State because they have a solid program and a reputation for getting jobs out of college."

With just a year and change of varsity playing time, Dermo has also acquired a reputation.

"I think sophomore year I was more happy to be on the team and learn from everyone," he said. "Last year, I was really anxious to play after a year of not playing at all. I think I was just overanxious, but eventually I got a spot behind the plate."

Well, the first-teamer earned the spot.

"It means a ton because the league is really competitive," he said. "So to be named one of the top catchers in the Catholic League Red Division is really an honor."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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