Zentz commits to Fredonia State

Zach Zentz delivers a pitch during a complete-game shutout at Fredonia High School against the eventual co-champion Fredonia Hillbillies earlier this year. Zentz led the Marauders to a 4-0 win over Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

The pride of the Dunkirk Marauders both on the field and off will not be traveling far to continue his career as a student-athlete after graduating from Dunkirk next month.

Zach Zentz will be attending the State University of New York at Fredonia to play college baseball next year. Zentz filled out an NCAA celebratory signing form in the Dunkirk High School library earlier this week.

Zentz, a two-time captain of the Marauders baseball team, credits baseball for keeping him motivated to succeed at Dunkirk, especially in the classroom. He spoke to his title of student-athlete being more than just being a baseball player, but no player at Dunkirk in any sport juggles more responsibilities than Zentz does.

Aside from being Dunkirk’s go-to pitcher this season, Zentz is the senior class president at Dunkirk High School; a student representative on the Board of Education; a member of the National Honor Society; a member of the Dunkirk Unified Sports Club; a leader on the most successful cross country team Dunkirk has had in a decade; and he even joined the varsity basketball team as a senior this past winter.

“I want to bring life and enjoyment to the school in any way possible,” Zentz said. “… When I look back in 10 years on what I did in high school, I want to say I had fun … and I wanted to leave an impact.”

Zach Zentz, seated middle, signed his NCAA celebratory signing form to play baseball at Fredonia State. Zentz is pictured with his parents, Steve and Denise Zentz (right), his grandparents, Art and Barb Nolan (left), and Dunkirk baseball coach Frank Jagoda, (standing middle). OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

Zentz led the way on a sock drive for the holidays to benefit those in need, and also coordinated a holiday celebration for Mia Curtin, a Dunkirk student battling a rare brain condition, and a home visit from the team for one of its biggest supporters, Susie Lis, who was diagnosed with cancer.

Affectionately referred to as “Mr. President” by his peers, Zentz also led fundraising efforts for a senior trip to Cedar Point. He also helped convince the Board of Education to open the campus to allow students to enjoy the courtyard during the school day.

Despite all he does for others, Zentz is so humble that, when prompted, he asked faculty members to help him note all of the positive things he has been a part of at Dunkirk. He often jokes with his catcher, Donny Jackson, about how Jackson’s pitch framing ability makes him look “like an actual pitcher.” Zentz even stepped back from the spotlight after throwing a complete game shutout on the road to beat Fredonia, instead crediting his defense and saying his individual performance was “not the best.”

Dunkirk baseball coach Frank Jagoda said of the impact Zentz has had on the baseball program, “He’s brought discipline and the idea of playing as hard as you possibly can, being the best example for younger players. He brought what he’s learned to the younger players now, what it truly means to have integrity for baseball and integrity to do the right things. He’s done that superbly.”

Jagoda also noted that Zentz is admired not only through his accomplishments in baseball, but also through Unified sports within the district. Zentz is so appreciated throughout the school that more than 30 people crowded the High School lobby to witness his signing, from faculty and staff to classmates and teammates.

Dunkirk senior Zach Zentz recently signed his NCAA celebratory signing form to play college baseball at the State University of New York at Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

“I hope everybody just follows suit over the next few years, all who have known him – including our younger players and the younger students that are in this building,” Jagoda said. “This is how you need to be as a person. This is how you need to generate a good future for yourself.”

At SUNY Fredonia, Zentz will pursue a degree in criminal justice, while also studying psychology with an eye on a graduate program in criminology down the line through the University at Buffalo.

Zentz chose Fredonia partly because it is close to home. Staying in the community was a priority for Zentz, as he has already made a major impact on the area where he was raised.

Zentz also noted a reason for choosing Fredonia was a recommendation from his pitching coach, Charlie LaDuca, who serves as an assistant at Fredonia State. With the Blue Devils, Zentz will play for Jordan Basile, a 2009 Fredonia State graduate, who is the school’s all-time hits leader and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Basile previously coached at Jamestown Community College.

Through the recruitment process, Zentz was pursued by Fredonia State, which he acknowledged is not the norm when it comes to playing at the next level. He noted that within minutes of officially visiting the campus with his mom, Denise, his mind was made up. “It was kind of quick and easy,” he said.

This season, Zentz primarily played shortstop for the Marauders when he was not on the mound. Zentz hopes to focus on pitching at Fredonia State, but he is open to playing other positions if needed. His mindset represents Dunkirk perfectly: Whatever it takes.

“They are certainly going to get an honest effort every single day. They are going to get a kid who strives to win, strives to be a great teammate, and likes to have fun,” Jagoda said. “He will help their program, and he will develop even more than he has developed now. … They are very fortunate to get him.”


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