by Patrick Gustavson
A key piece in the Central Connecticut baseball’s teams run to repeat as Northeast Conference champions is senior catcher Nick Garland, who has consistently performed both offensively and defensively, as well as being a team leader.
Garland has been a fixture in the Blue Devils’ lineup this season, starting all 27 games. In that time, he owns a .255 batting average to go with three home runs and 15 runs batted in.
He has also been productive in getting on base, walking 15 times, tying his last year’s total in more than 20 fewer games.
Not only has Garland been a key piece at the plate, but also on defense. Having caught all but two games so far this season, he has thrown out 11 of 29 attempted base stealers. That .379 percentage rate is well above his career average.
Having been catching since the age of six, the position has always held an appeal to Garland.
“I like that I’m in every play and that I can dictate the game, the tempo,” Garland said. “Whether it’s throwing behind runners or trying to pick someone off, I’m just in every play. It keeps my adrenaline going.”
Due to the nature of college baseball, Garland has seen many different pitchers over the last three years, but says establishing a rapport is “the easy part.”
“Most of these guys have been pitching for two, three, four years. So, I have a good reputation with them, catching their bullpens all season,” he said.
He says the hardest part is making sure the pitchers are throwing strikes.
“Some guys are off some days, and I take that as my responsibility to get them to throw strikes,” Garland said.
As a senior, Garland has also taken on a leadership role. Head coach Charlie Hickey has consistently listed Garland as one of the team’s leaders.
Garland says the key to being a good leader is staying positive through the “ups and downs” of baseball, and leading by example.
“I show up every day and try to set a good example. Showing up early to practice and just working hard and playing hard,” Garland said.
Garland’s strong play put him on the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, an award that is given to the top collegiate catcher in Division I. The list contains 100 of the top catchers in the nation.
Though being on this list is a “great honor” to him, he is more concerned about the success of his team.
“A better honor would be winning another ring,” Garland said. “I’d rather be out here winning games than being on any list for any individual award because winning games as a team is a lot better.”
However, the defending NEC champions are not playing at the level they need to in order to repeat. Though they are .5o0 in conference play, they are still in a position to make the conference tournament.
Garland knows what the team needs to do in order to get back on track and contend.
“We need to be unselfish and do the small things, whether it’s running the bases right or throwing strikes. Everyone could do their little part,” Garland said. “We’re not a team that’s going to score 15 runs or strike out 15 guys. Everybody needs to take responsibility and that’s how we’re going to win games.”
Consistent play from veterans like Garland will also be a key in the Blue Devils’ quest to repeat.