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Ian Gagliano was huge at plate for Hughesville this summer in Independent Summer League

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Hughesville baseball seniors Hunter Wentzel (17), Brock Stroup (13) and Ian Gagliano (3), right, look over a photo of the seniors with coach Chris Kish during senior night before their game against Warrior Run at Bodine Field in July. Gagliano turned into a hitting machine for Hughesville in the Independent Summer League and capped it by going 6 for 6 in the tournament postseason over two games.

After Ian Gagliano went 3 for 3 in a semifinal win against Warrior Run, his friend asked him to repeat that achievement against Loyalsock.

Baseball is a humbling game. If a Major Leaguer produces a hit in 30% of his at-bats he might become a Hall of Famer. But Gagliano never doubted his chances. He bet on himself and he won big.

Gagliano went 6 for 6 in Saturday’s Independent Summer League Tournament and his second consecutive 3-for-3 performance helped Hughesville defeat Loyalsock, 11-3, and capture the championship.

“My first game I went 3 for 3 as well and one of my friends came here to watch and said you have to go 6 for 6. I told him, ‘I’ve got you. I’ll do it,'” Gagliano said. “Every single at-bat I said I have to move a runner over, I have to get on any way possible. I just stepped on the gas with my hitting and kept going.”

No one ever really stopped him this summer either.

Gagliano missed out on playing his senior high school season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but still created some lasting memories at Hughesville and was one of the team’s most valuable players this summer. In addition to providing super defense at second base, Gagliano was a hitting machine from the ninth spot in the order, superbly turning the lineup over, driving in runs and creating frequent scoring opportunities.

A player who rarely strikes out, skillfully moves runners and bunts well, Gagliano looks like an ideal lead-off hitter. And though he batted ninth, that really is what the recent Hughesville graduate was, adding another RBI and run in his final game against Loyalsock.

“He’s the perfect No. 9 hitter. It seems like every year we have a kid who slashes. A couple years ago it was Mike Hill, then Carter Marquardt and now Ian. They’ve found success and they bought into it,” Hughesville coach Chris Kish said. “They have said, ‘I’m not a doubles guy, but I’m going to be a singles guy and I’m going to give the top of the lineup a chance to drive me in.'”

“I know I have good people coming up next. Some pitchers think it’s just the nine-hole hitter, but I can hit,” Gagliano said. “I will hit it wherever you pitch that ball. I just try to put it in play and make them make plays.”

While the spring high school seasons being canceled hit all its participants hard, it landed an especially cruel haymaker on Gagliano. The past three seasons, Gagliano was a good player, but he was stuck behind Marquardt, another outstanding player at second base.

Gagliano never stopped working and improving, however, and 2020 was going to be his breakout season. The second base job was his and Gagliano appeared poised for big things. The script needed a rewrite, but despite losing his senior season, Gagliano still found a way to achieve those.

“I couldn’t imagine how incredible frustrating it was for him, but the rewards on the back end overreach the tough times,” Kish said. “I think the good parts of what he did at Hughesville outweigh everything else.”

Through all the hard times, Gagliano experienced some great times. Hughesville went 13-1 this summer and won its last eight games. Hughesville never thought it would be playing in an Independent Summer League, but from frustration came elation and both made a statement about how good they are.

Gagliano said he is considering playing baseball at Penn College, but still is unsure. Whatever the future holds, going 6 for 6 in his final game provides Gagliano quite a Hughesville send-off and creates a terrific memory.

“I love playing with all my senior buddies. They’re just like family to me,” Gagliano said. “Playing with them one more time feels amazing.

“He’s unbelievable. For a kid who was stuck behind Carter Marquardt and hadn’t had the opportunity, for him to go out 6 for 6, it’s the right ending,” Kish said. “He has worked his tail off for so many years. He very easily could have walked away, but he stayed the course.”

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