Photo by Gabriel Stovall
Lovejoy pitcher Drew Nicholson is becoming the cornerstone for the Wildcats team this season.
HAMPTON — It’s safe to say that Drew Nicholson’s mom invested her $100 well.
That’s how it all started for the Lovejoy senior pitcher — that, and a drive to Old National Park.
“My mom and I were riding around when we passed by that park and she saw a sign that said ‘baseball tryouts,’” Nicholson said. “She asked me if I wanted to try out and I said ‘yeah.’”
The young Nicholson was just seven years old when he first put on a pair of cleats and stepped onto a baseball diamond. It’s been a love affair ever since, Nicholson said.
But it took the crack of a wooden bat four years later at age 13 to cause his desire for the game to increase. That’s when Nicholson played for a travelball team called the Georgia Gators. That was also when Nicholson hit his first homerun, and got the inkling that he could really be good at this baseball thing.
“It was against the East Cobb team,” Nicholson said. “I hit it with wood. It was the game before the championship game. We were a run down and my homerun tied the score.”
It also motivated the other team.
“I think it really got them pumped up to win the game,” he said. “We never could beat them for the championship.”
Nowadays, Nicholson has his sights set on a higher prize — trying to help his Lovejoy team make a return trip to the state tournament following a successful 2012 campaign.
Last year, the Wildcats finished 21-7, including a 19-1 mark in Region 4-AAAA, at one point went on a 15-game winning streak and hosted a first round state playoff game.
On this very same date last year, the Wildcats were 13-2 and still had two more wins left in them from that 15-game tare.
Things are a little different this season. After dropping a 1-0 decision to Druid Hills Wednesday, Lovejoy is nursing a 5-6 record and a 2-4 mark in its first season in Region 2-AAAAAA.
Coach Craig Chatman knew that the road may be a little harder to climb this season, what with so many players who hadn’t much playing experience.
Chatman’s squad graduated eight seniors last year.
“We sold out with that large senior class and we got what we wanted to get,” said Chatman, in his 14th year as coach. “This year, it’s not that we have a lot of young players age wise. Just guys who haven’t played a whole lot of baseball for us.”
Nicholson is not one of those. Aside from a sophomore year where he sat out from baseball for academic reasons, Nicholson has been one of Lovejoy’s best pitchers for the last three years.
And this year, Chatman said, he means more to this Lovejoy bunch than ever.
“By far and away, he’s our best pitcher,” Chatman said. “He’s far more consistent this year than last year.”
His numbers tell the story of improvement. So far, Lovejoy’s ace has compiled a 2-2 record, also recording a save. He has a 2.29 ERA with 52 strikeouts.
If not for Lovejoy’s cold bats and an error that brought in Druid Hills’ lone run Wednesday night, Nicholson would’ve pitched a no-hitter.
Behind the plate, he has contributed as well. The senior is batting right at .300 with 18 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.
But while the stats paint a picture of value to his team, Nicholson speaks of a desire to improve.
“It’s a good feeling when your coach feels that way and says the things he’s said about me,” Nicholson said. “I’ve felt comfortable on the mound this year. Ever since I’ve been on the mound, I felt like I was meant to be on it. But I know I can be better. I want to get my batting average up and get on base.
“I want to steal more, but I’ve got to get on before I can steal.”
One person who isn’t disappointed in Nicholson’s play is the one that made his first investment in Nicholson’s future — his mother.
“She doesn’t get to every game, but she gets to the ones she can,” he said. “You’ll know when she’s there because she’s out there with her blowhorn. She makes it real known if there are any errors.”
By the sound of it, however, — and despite the team’s tough start, Nicholson’s play hasn’t given her much to toot about — at least negatively.
"She's very proud of how I've progressed," he said. "I've come a long way since I first started playing.”