By Kyle LoJacono
Trey McNickle has been playing baseball for most of his life, but it was a late move to become a pitcher that helped him earn a college scholarship.
The 6-foot-5 McNickle, who recently graduated from Land O’ Lakes High, first picked up a baseball about 14 years ago mostly as an outfielder, but a suggestion from Gators baseball coach Calvin Baisley moved him to the pitching mound.
“I hadn’t ever pitched in high school before my senior season,” McNickle said. “Coach Baisley asked if I wanted to give it a try in October. I figured it would be fun.”
McNickle signed June 6 to pitch at St. Petersburg College, where he plans to study business. He is still new to pitching, using mainly a fastball with movement, but his near sidearm delivery seems to give batters trouble when he comes out of the bullpen.
“Throwing almost sidearm was a suggestion by coach Baisley too,” McNickle said. “He said it would give people problems at the end of games. I knew if I was going to pitch, I wanted to be a closer and not a starter.”
McNickle served as the Gators closer in 2011 recording six saves, more than any other pitcher in Pasco County. His relief work helped the Gators go 20-9 and reach the Class 4A regional tournament for the first time since 2008.
“He did a lot for us this year,” Baisley said. “It helped to know we could bring him in to end the game and it saved our starters. As a batter he always seemed to get the big hit for us. He didn’t have the highest batting average, but he came up big in big situations. He has a very high baseball IQ.”
McNickle had a 2.73 ERA with a 3-3 record while recording 13 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. He was named to the All-Laker/All-Lutz News baseball first team as a closer this year. McNickle also batted .262 with 24 RBI, 23 runs scored, 21 hits, five doubles and four homers.
McNickle played at Land O’ Lakes the last three years. He came to central Pasco when his father, Russ McNickle, became the baseball coach at Saint Leo University.
“I’ve loved playing here,” McNickle said. “My senior season I had so much fun just coming to practice with everyone.”
St. Petersburg went 29-24 this year. McNickle said the Titans’ coaches’ professional attitude is what made him pick the school.
“I’ve always wanted to play in college and now I get the chance,” McNickle said. “It’s been my dream and I can’t thank coach Baisley enough for what he did to help me get signed.”
–All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches.