Freshman pitcher doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer

 

Normally when a high schooler receives a rejection letter from a college admissions office, he or she moves on to the next school on the list.

Not Nick McGregor.

The native Virginian said he was so determined to play baseball at Emerson that when he received a rejection letter from the college, he wasn’t deterred one bit.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m coming, don’t worry about it.  I don’t know how yet, but I’ll do it, I’m coming,’” said head coach Dave Hanley.

McGregor said that after he received the letter he chose to bide his time, attend a community college near his Virginia home, and try again for the spring semester.

The next letter from Emerson carried good news, and now McGregor is a film production major and starting pitcher for the Lions.

For both McGregor and the rest of the Emerson baseball team, the patience has paid off.

Hanley said the freshman’s perseverance is an example for the Lions not only off the field, but also on it.

The starting pitcher’s numbers have been impressive so far. He leads his team in innings pitched with 47, games started with seven, and has the lowest ERA of 4.98.

The accolades don’t stop there. The freshman has also been ranked in the top five in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in innings pitched and ERA.  But according to Hanley, McGregor couldn’t care less about his personal statistics.

“He doesn’t care about his record or numbers; he wants to win,” Hanley said.  “He’s a competitor and that’s what we need.”

McGregor said he’s happy with the position he’s in.

“[My statistics] just show me that my coaches and teammates have faith in me on the mound and, as a freshman, that’s the best thing I can ask for,” he said.

This selflessness is what Hanley sees as something that may indicate McGregor will be a key part of this team for the next several years.

Still, there’s no denying his on-field performance, which has been huge for the Lions this season.  It’s a year that has felt the absence of last year’s veteran pitchers, Ben McNamara and Pete Karl, who graduated last spring, and of last year’s strikeout leader Zak Levine, who has missed all of this season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Despite the key personnel losses, Hanley said he’s pleased with what his rotation has accomplished this season.  Along with McGregor, sophomores Connor McDonough and Brandon Topp, junior transfer student Ben Quick, and junior Jeff Kolb have accounted for all nine of the Lions’ wins this season.  Quick is among the GNAC leaders in strikeouts.

“Pitching is not the problem,” Hanley said of his 9-20 ballclub. “The problem has been the offense.”

McGregor said the team has a collective attitude that will help steer it in the right direction.

“Emerson baseball is about grinding it out and having a passion for what we do,” McGregor said. “Everybody on the team loves playing baseball. It’s not like any of us are going to be big leaguers, and it’s not like we play in front of a stadium crowd;it’s about playing for each other and going out with your friends [and] trying to win games.”

McGregor credits senior captain Nick Vennochi for mentoring him and instilling his winning attitude.

“He’s a hard worker who spent his off-season in the gym and the weight room, and now it’s paying off for him. The kid’s batting .346 and hasn’t made an error at first base. I hope that by my senior year, I can carry the team the same way that he has,” said McGregor.

Vennochi, the Lions’ senior captain, said he’s seen enough poise from McGregor to indicate he may become a leader for the Lions.

“When he’s on the bench, not pitching, he’s always cheering on his teammates,” said Vennochi, a broadcast journalism major. “He hates to lose, and that goes a long way in being a leader.  Nick can be the leader of the staff as a sophomore.”

But McGregor said personal titles are secondary. He has one aspiration that matters to him for the rest of his career at Emerson.

“Winning the championship. It’s all about winning the GNAC,” he said.  “That’s my goal and my goal for the team for the next four years.”