Grant Nicholson feels comfortable with his teammates as the center of attention.
During a recent break between playoff games, the Tattnall Square senior stood in the middle of the clubhouse bunting balls at his teammates sitting in their lockers. Nicholson offered a sheepish grin in between peppering balls as an outsider walked through the clubhouse.
“He’s comfortable around his teammates,” Tattnall head coach Joey Hiller said. “He gets along with everyone and is a good clubhouse guy.”
On the field, Nicholson prefers anonymity. As the No. 2 pitcher behind a major league prospect, Nicholson gets plenty of it.
“Oh yeah, I love pitching behind (DeAndre Smelter),” Nicholson said. “Nobody expects anything out of me, so the pressure is really low. It’s a good position to be in.”
But as the season has progressed, fewer and fewer teams have underestimated Tattnall’s other pitcher.
Nicholson has lost just once this season, and Tattnall’s advancement to the state championship series can be attributed to his pitching just as much as his high-profile teammate. Neither one has lost a start in the playoffs.
Nicholson will take the mound at some point this weekend when the Trojans play FPD for the GISA Class AAA championship. Game 1 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday at FPD.
“Everyone on the team has a lot of confidence in Grant,” Smelter said earlier in the playoffs. “He just goes out and pitches great every time we need it.”
That has certainly been the case in the playoffs.
Nicholson (7-1) was sharp in a series-clinching win over Trinity Christian in the first round.
Hiller handed him the ball in the opener of the second-round series against Deerfield-Windsor, and Nicholson responded with another win.
Nicholson was saved for Game 3 in the semifinals against Dominion Christian, and he stepped up with a three-hitter in an 8-1 win to send the Trojans to the championship series. Hiller turned to Nicholson rather than Smelter, who could have pitched on short rest in the series clincher.
“Coach came to me before the game and he asked me how I was feeling and I told him I could go out there,” Smelter said. “(But) I was perfectly fine with his decision to start Grant because I know what Grant can do.”
Nicholson said prior to the Dominion series that his confidence has grown substantially throughout this season. The Trojans knew from the start of the season they had a dominant No. 1 in Smelter. But one of the biggest questions facing the team was who would step up as a reliable second starter. Nicholson showed throughout the season that he embraced the role.
“I just feel comfortable out there, and it’s because of our coaches, (Smelter) and just getting more experience,” Nicholson said. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt on the mound, and I think it’s a pretty good time to feel that way.”