CARY, N.C, – A projected top 10 pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June, Blake Rutherford gets much of the spotlight for the Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.) baseball team. But fellow senior captains Tommy Costello and Nick Kahle are stars, too.
Together, they have helped lead Chaminade to Saturday’s championship game of the National High School Invitational against Southern California rival Huntington Beach at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Chaminade advanced with an 8-2 victory against Florence (Ala.) on Friday, scoring seven runs in the first two innings.
Among Kahle and Costello’s accomplishments in the tournament, Kahle has two home runs and Costello has a complete-game, 10-strikeout effort on the mound and a three-hit, three-RBI game at the plate.
But the two University of Washington commits bring much more than just stats.
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“It’s like having two coaches on the field,” Chaminade coach Frank Mutz said. “Nick Kahle is a quiet leader. He’s great at pulling guys aside and having one-on-one talks. He’s a kind leader, he’s not going to put you down. He’s always going to have your back. He’s a nice guy. I guarantee you, when he’s done playing his baseball career – whether it’s high school, college or professional baseball – I see him on the field coaching.”
“And Tommy is an exceptional leader,” Mutz continued. “He’ll be a CEO of a company. The way he leads is with fire and passion. He’s very mature. He gets his work done. He does everything the coach asks him to do. To get a kid who’s yes-sir, no-sir polite, respectful and has those skills to be able to lead other guys, that’s a rare quality.”
Those leadership skills coupled with their baseball abilities led the Washington coaches to pursue them, although both could potentially be drafted in June.
“Tommy is a strong left-handed pitcher with an unbelievable attitude on the mound,” Washington recruiting coordinator Donegal Fergus said. “He is a bulldog on the mound. He epitomizes that. He believes he can get anybody out. He has that swagger to him. He’s a tough competitor with more velocity coming. He has great command. He’s a prototypical left-hander who can locate all of his pitches.
“Nick can really hit,” he continued. “I believe he can hit with anyone in the country. He has sometimes been overlooked because of his size (5-10, 210). He’s not a prototypical, big strong hitter. But I believe he’s as good a pure hitter as there is.”
The Chaminade lineup starts with Rutherford, who was moved to the leadoff spot in an effort to get him more at-bats, followed by Kahle and Costello. Friday against Florence, the trio combined for five of Chaminade’s 13 hits and scored three runs. Kahle went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and drove in two runs. Costello was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
“Nick’s a fantastic baseball player,” Mutz said. “I know everyone talks about Blake Rutherford, but he’s right there. I think he’s going to have a major league baseball career as well. He squares up everything. He puts the ball in play all the time. He rarely, rarely strikes out. If you strike him out, you’re striking out one of the best hitters in the country.”
The duo, who along with Rutherford have played together since their days in the Simi Youth League in complement each other well, including off the field.
“Mine and Nick’s relationship is unbelievable,” Costello said. “Like me and Blake, we do everything together, all three of us. The chemistry we have … is awesome. It’s built through the classroom, through the workouts. We motivate each other to get better every day.”
But even with that close relationship, Costello said he was not the first to know when Kahle committed to the Huskies.
“I committed real early and Nick was waiting on a couple offers, really discerning about his decision,” Costello said. “I was pushing him, saying, ‘Come on, go to Washington.’ And he didn’t even tell me; he just called and committed. I’m on the phone with the pitching coach, Coach Jason Kelly, and he lets me know, ‘Hey, Kahle committed.’
“I freaked out, hung up on Coach Kelley, and called Nick. It was awesome. Whatever happens in the draft with those two guys, we’ll always remain close. But if Nick and I get the chance to go to college together, that would be an amazing thing.”
What makes the friendship so fun both on and off the field, and Chaminade so successful?
“I always want to win,” said the softspoken Kahle. “It helps us having Tommy and Blake because they want to win as well. We all contribute to that. We’ve got some young guys on the team so we want to make sure they stay focused. We love to win. Winning’s fun, so we’re having a great time out here.”