TAMPA, Fla. – Former star Mike Mussina’s abilities continue to serve as inspiration for University of Tampa pitcher Nick Nolan.
Nolan said he watched the big leaguer play throughout his career as a New York Yankee, a team he grew up following thanks to his father who was born in Long Island, NY.
“I really liked Mussina,” said Nolan, just outside the UT stadium on a hot afternoon. “When I was younger, one of my coaches taught me the knuckle curve, and Mussina was a big knuckle curve guy, so I used to like watching him pitch a lot.”
Nolan knew he wanted to make it as a pitcher in high school, where his breakout season came as a senior in 2013. Nolan was named as a first-team pitcher for his Florida county, and was also chosen to play in the Florida Athletic Coaches Associations State All-Star game.
Capping off an impressive year, the six-foot-1 righty also managed to toss a no-hitter against Pinellas Park High School, which he said was one of his finest career achievements to date.
“Once you’re in the zone on the mound, there’s nothing else,” said Nolan. “You’re just locked in. It was a great experience.”
The junior credits one of his youth coaches, Sam Marsonek, for his development in baseball at an early age. A former first-round draft pick for the Texas Rangers, Marsonek is now the Director of Player Development and under-16 head coach for SCORE International, a youth baseball program.
“He made me a physically and mentally better person. A better pitcher, too.” Nolan said.
Before transferring to UT, Nolan played at Hillsborough Community College for two seasons. In his freshman year, he was named to the first-team all-conference squad, a reward for 74 strikeouts and a 2.33 ERA over 89 innings. In his sophomore year, he had 30 strikeouts over 36 innings.
Now that he has moved on to college baseball in Tampa, Nolan praised the team chemistry that coach Joe Urso cultivate – the team is always in high spirits.
“There’s not one guy on the team who’s an outcast,” said Nolan. “Every day there’ll be someone causing a ruckus, just for the team’s sake. You know what I mean? Everyone loves that, it’s good.”
Urso, who owns a 664-193-1 record along with four national championships over 15 seasons (including two of the last three) is a strong believer in team chemistry.
“This group gets along,” said Urso, whose club had lost just once in 2016 by this day. “We’ve had a lot of tight games, and they’ve had to come from behind a lot too. I’ve seen a lot of characteristics you need of a championship team in this group.”