Santillo Earns Third Straight Golden Glove Award
Junior Samantha Santillo (Ellwood City, Pa. / Lincoln) of the Robert Morris University softball team headlined the Colonial honorees as she claimed the Northeast Conference Golden Glove Award as announced Wednesday afternoon in the league’s release of its annual postseason honors.
This marks the third consecutive year in which Santillo has claimed the conference’s honor for the top defensive player, as voted on by each of the league’s head coaches. In doing so, Santillo becomes the first Colonial ever, and just the second student-athlete in NEC history, to win the same major postseason award at least three times in a career.
Junior Tess Apke (Mt. Lebanon, Pa. / Mt. Lebanon) and freshman Jordan Gurganus (Chesapeake, Va. / Hickory) joined RMU’s primary backstop in being honored Wednesday as both garnered All-NEC First Team selections, the former in the outfield and the latter at first base.
Santillo was once again the backbone of the Robert Morris defense in 2014 as she excelled at multiple defensive aspects of the game. She tallied a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage as she did not commit an error in 237 chances. Santillo is one of only three players in the NEC to have an error-free season with more than 50 chances this year, and she is the only one to achieve the feat with more than 150 chances. She was a consistent threat to any opposing team’s running game as she caught nearly half of opposing runners trying to steal (15-of-31) and actually gunned down exactly half within conference play (8-of-16). She allowed only one passed ball all season, helping Robert Morris lead the league in fewest passed balls per game. Santillo’s work with the pitching staff also assisted RMU in posting a 2.08 team ERA, the best such mark by Robert Morris in over a decade. Santillo owns a .995 career fielding percentage, the best mark ever by a Colonial (min. 250 chances).
Apke started 47 games this season with 46 of those starts coming in the outfield. She led Robert Morris in a bevy of offensive categories including batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.382), slugging percentage (.558), runs (25), hits (52), RBI (25), doubles (nine), home runs (seven), total bases (82) and multiple-RBI games (six), setting career highs in five of the final six categories. Apke hit .483 with an .897 slugging percentage with runners on base and two outs this season. She delivered a number of key blasts in 2014 as four of her long balls pushed RMU into the lead when it did not previously have it. She homered in the seventh inning against nationally ranked UCLA to turn a deficit into a lead and also did the same thing in the sixth inning in a contest against Furman. She earned NEC Player of the Week honors in early April after a week that included a school-record tying 4-for-4 effort with a homer and a double in a victory over local rival Pitt. Apke ranks among the top five in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, hits and total bases. Her 2014 batting average also now ranks as one of the top 20 single-season marks in RMU history.
Apke’s first career all-conference honor makes her the ninth distinct Colonial to be named All-NEC First Team in the outfield.
Gurganus made solid contributions with the bat in her rookie campaign while being in an unfamiliar defensive environment. After beginning the season in the outfield, Gurgnaus was moved to first base and tasked with learning the intricacies of the position. Catching up to speed quickly at first did not inhibit her offensive ability as she hit .307 on the year with 47 hits in 153 at bats. She scored 18 runs on the season, swiped eight bases in 10 attempts and notched nine RBI. Among those nominated for all-conference at first base, Gurganus led the group in batting average, runs scored, hits, total bases, on-base percentage, stolen bases and fielding percentage within NEC play. She tied for the team lead with 13 multi-hit games and was responsible for one of the more dramatic moments of the season when she drove a RBI single to center to help Robert Morris walk off to a 1-0 victory over BIG EAST foe Villanova in extra innings. Gurganus is the only left-handed hitter on this year’s All-NEC First Team.
Gurganus is the fifth distinct Colonial to earn all-conference honors at first base, but she is only the third member of RMU softball, and the first since 2003, to claim a first-team nod at first base.
Santillo becomes just the second Colonial ever to win three major awards of any type.
With Apke earning her award, at least one Colonial outfielder has now earned all-conference honors in each of the past eight years.
Gurganus is the seventh Colonial ever to earn All-NEC First Team honors as a freshman. She is also the fifth RMU rookie to claim an all-league honor within the past three years.
Robert Morris finished the 2014 campaign with its best non-conference winning percentage in 20 years and proved it could play with the nation’s best when it took perennial national powerhouse UCLA to extra innings in Los Angeles.
RMU is also the only Division I school in the country to have its softball program rank among the top five in team grade point average in each of the past five years.