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Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 6/8/2017 12:14 PM

Two-sport standout Kmet makes his mark in baseball

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  • St. Viator senior Cole Kmet has left plenty of opponents scratching their heads after hitting 12 homers with 44 RBI and going 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA on the mound for a baseball team that competes in Friday's Class 3A state semifinals.

      St. Viator senior Cole Kmet has left plenty of opponents scratching their heads after hitting 12 homers with 44 RBI and going 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA on the mound for a baseball team that competes in Friday's Class 3A state semifinals.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

Most observers would think baseball is an afterthought for St. Viator's Cole Kmet.

After all, Kmet, a senior who is ranked as one of the top high school tight ends in the country, has a scholarship to play football next fall at Notre Dame.

They would be wrong. Dead wrong.

Kmet is looking to be one of those Division-I rarities -- a two-sport athlete.

And the way Kmet has played this season, along with his strong season last year, it looks like he is sure to accomplish that.

Kmet put up monster numbers for the Lions while help leading them to the Class 3A supersectional round for the second consecutive year.

Heading into Friday's state semifinal against Marmion, Kmet was hitting .435 with 12 homers, 44 RBI and had scored 36 runs. He had 16 doubles, was walked 11 times and was hit by pitches 7 times. He has an OBP of .500 and a slugging percentage a staggering .922.

That's just in the batter's box. Add in his numbers and the fact that he is a lefty and has been cracking 90-mph on the bump, and it becomes obvious that this is a special kind of player.

He is 7-3 with an ERA of 2.11. He has thrown 56 innings, striking out 96 and walking 19. In his last four outings, he has thrown 2 shutouts and allowed just 4 runs.

That type of play has earned Kmet the captainship of the Daily Herald's Northwest all-area baseball team.

"It is exciting," Kmet said. "It just shows that all the hard work pays off. I don't do this stuff for personal rewards, but it is kind of cool to get the recognition."

St. Viator coach Mike Manno said Kmet's numbers would have been even better if the senior had not pressed so much during the midseason, when the Lions were struggling.

"We got in a rut as a team and he felt as a senior leader, he had to take over," Manno said. "Actually it was counter-productive to him. He started to struggle. We had a good discussion. I told him, 'Do what you do, which is be a great athlete and you have to trust that people around you will figure it out as well.' ''

Kmet is not trying to figure out what sport he wants to focus on in college. He had expressed an interest late last year right after he committed to Notre Dame to play both football and baseball in college. That feeling has not changed.

"Everything is fun," Kmet said. "Even football is fun. I am very serious about playing both and I'm going to look to continue playing both.

"I could not imagine giving up one or the other right now. I will continue to play as long as people want me to play."

Kmet says he has the blessing of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to keep going, at least right now.

"Coach Kelly has encouraged me and allowed me to play in the spring," Kmet said. "They are cool with everything. They want to see me compete on the baseball field. They like that it keeps me competitive all year long. They are definitely for it."

Kmet was coming off a season in which he hit .329 with 11 homers and 39 RBI. He credits the Viator coaches for the jump in his average.

"Coach (Brett) Kay, Coach (Joe) Rybeck and coach Manno and the other coaches," Kmet said. "I can't thank them enough. My doubles have gone up and I am hitting really well this year."

He threw 64 innings last year, with 96 strikeouts and 33 walks. He had a 2.39 ERA while going 10-1 on the season.

"I just think that whatever I am in, I am good at," Kmet said. "I believe I am good at both sports equally."

For Manno, the stats don't matter as much as the leadership Kmet brings to the field each and every day.

"He is obviously any coach's dream," Manno said. "He makes people around him better. He makes me better as a person.

"He is so selfless. It is all about team for him. And I think that has helped propel us. His presence has carried us through tough times."

Manno says he knows Kmet can be successful playing both sports.

"Cole has the pure passion of wanting to play at the highest level," Manno said. "He is always in the 'now.' "

Kmet has a third option that has been slowly creeping up. Major League baseball has taken notice, and with the draft just a few days away, Kmet may get the call.

But Kmet is not focused on that right now.

"I have heard from some scouts here and there," Kmet said. "I am just enjoying the moment right now. If that comes along, it comes along. I am just having fun right now."

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