Justin Loo of Boston Prime leads off first base against York in the Super 17 Invitational.
By Joe Hofmann
Adios, squatting behind home plate.
Greetings, pitching rubber!
York Rev’s Nico Nattle didn’t exactly utter those words Friday morning – but he did imply them.
When the Phoenixville Area High School season gets underway next year, Nattle figures to lose the catching gear – for good.
When you can throw 85-87 MPH – and enjoy pitching better than catching – then your baseball future is on the mound.
Nattle showed that heater – not to mention a dangerous bat – in his team’s 11-6 victory over Boston Prime Friday morning.
Nattle lined a first-inning two-run double and later added an RBI single that highlighted a big seven-run second inning for York.
That wasn’t the last Boston would hear from Nattle, who came on in the sixth inning and threw an electric 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
Not bad for a kid who is thought of as a catcher on his high school team.
“They brought me up to varsity when I was a sophomore and they told me to catch, so I did that,” Nattle said. “But I like to play third base and pitcher better.”
Nattle just may get that opportunity on the hill when next season rolls around.
There was very little doubt about his hitting.
“He’s a great kid and they have a great program over there,” coach Dave Pridgen said. “He’s a good catcher, too, with a 1.8 pop time.”
Nattle’s hitting was typical of a York Revs lineup that is like a freight train leaving the yard. Once they get going, there is a lot of power and momentum – and very little an opponent can do to stop it.
After erupting for 11 runs in one inning to win on Thursday, Pridgen’s team plated seven in the second inning and was never threatened against Boston Prime after that.
“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty good,” Pridgen said. “We were taking too many fastballs down the middle. Today we drove the ball well.”
York also ran the bases with abandon, which is all a part of Pridgen’s master plan.
Leadoff man Nizeah Mummert led off with a walk and stole second. Ty Pridgen followed with a walk and the two were driven in on Nattle’s double.
In the second, Jackson Peacock singled and stole second and Ryan Balaban walked. The two then attempted a double steal and catcher Michael Spalla’s throw went into left field, scoring York’s third run.
After walks to Ethan Beck and Christian Kleckner loaded the bases, Joshua Boll lofted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Ty Pridgen of the York Revs charges down the first base line against Boston Prime.
One out later, Pridgen reached on an infield single to bring home a run, A.J. Lipscomb hit a two-run single, Nattle singled, and M.J. Vottero doubled up the left field line, making it 9-2.
The outburst was similar to Thursday, when the team piled up 11 runs in one inning in an 11-6 victory over the Academy Stars.
“When we get going, we are loud,” Nattle said. “This was an early morning game, so it took a little while for us to get going.”
Boston had some fight and scored four runs in the next half inning to close its gap to 9-6.
But York’s sidearming lefty Jack Bear came on in relief of starter Ethan Beck and closed the door.
Harrison Sigel and Elliott Gordon led off the top of the third for Boston with walks before Beck hit Sam Perron with a pitch to load the bases. Sigel scored on a wild pitch before Owen Levine tripled in two, chasing Beck.
Bear allowed Evan Bardinelli’s RBI single but then pitched scoreless ball into the sixth before Nattle came in.
One of the big plays of the game for York came on the defensive end, when second baseman J.T. Taylor lunged to his left to catch Kyle Hurley’s liner and then threw to first and doubled up Justin Loo, who had been hit by a pitch.
“That was a tremendous defensive play by a great kid,” Pridgen said. “He is an unbelievable defender.”
That left it up to Nattle to shut the door in the sixth. He threw five miles per hour harder than anyone else who’d pitched in the game and also showed a good curve.
“The last time I pitched, I struggled,” he said. “I changed my grip and didn’t grip my curve as hard and it worked better.”
Nattle wants to play at the next level. If he hits and throws the way he did against Boston Prime, he figures to get a chance.
“I wasn’t exposed as much last summer as I have been this summer,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t do too many showcases. Now, we are doing tournaments, and Coach Pridgen is helping me with emails.”