Nicholas finds a good fit at Missouri

The junior slugger has hit well and impressed coaches and teammates.
Missouri junior third baseman Brett Nicholas tosses the bat after being walked against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 24 at Taylor Stadium. Nicholas is playing in his first year with Missouri and has found a fit with the Tigers.

In his first year as a Tiger, junior infielder Brett Nicholas has quickly earned his place on the baseball team. He leads Missouri in RBIs, is second in doubles and home runs and is among the top three in almost every other offensive category.

The explosive start has set the bar high for Nicholas, and his proficiency this season might point toward good things for his future. But this new Tiger's early success is no fluke. Where Nicholas is headed is a direct result of where he has been.

Nicholas has played for three schools in as many years during his college baseball career, starting with a stint at Gonzaga as a freshman.

"I kind of got my feet wet there to start off and understand what Division 1 baseball is like," Nicholas said.

But the Bulldogs forced him to play outfield, which led Nicholas, who always saw himself as a catcher, to take his services elsewhere.

Sophomore year brought him to Scottsdale Community College, where he led the Fighting Artichokes to their highest postseason finish ever. Nicholas took advantage of being close to home last year, with family and home cooking only a few miles away.

"I actually got to live at home for that year," Nicholas said. "It was nice to have family and friends be able to go out and watch games. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

As for the school's unusual mascot, Nicholas insisted that the name is no joke.

"It's serious, actually," Nicholas said. "It's so bad that it's kind of a cool thing, and we are proud of it. We take pride in having one of the worst mascots in the nation."

Although he values his time spent at Scottsdale Community College, Nicholas always planned on returning to Division 1 ball. So when Missouri took interest, he jumped at the chance to play for a bigger school with more baseball history.

"The transition from Scottsdale to here is just having to bring it everyday and not take a day off," Nicholas said. "Everybody is a step better here than at junior college."

If the faster pace has been a problem for Nicholas, his production hardly shows it. He trails only seniors Aaron Senne and Michael Liberto in starts (25), hits (31) and batting average (.355). But it's more than his stellar numbers that has impressed coach Tim Jamieson.

"He's a very mature kid," Jamieson said. "He has a baseball savvy that not everybody has and he's very much a team player."

Despite his praises for the newcomer, Jamieson couldn't help but be surprised by how easily Nicholas has established himself. Liberto was less shocked after watching Nicholas in practice.

"In batting practice he can drop some barrel," Liberto said. "I think he hit one off Jesse the other day, so it really doesn't surprise me."

On defense, Nicholas is listed as a catcher and infielder. Because the team already has a foundation behind the plate in junior Ryan Ampleman, Nicholas was tried out at third base for the first time in his life.

"I like catcher better, but anything that can help the team I'll be more than willing to do," Nicholas said.

The junior truly embodies the phrase "take one for the team”; he also leads team in hit-by-pitches. He's been beaned seven times this year.

His new home at third base, a spot in the middle of the batting order and the niche Nicholas has found on this year's squad have come just two months into the season. Three years and three different teams later, it seems the journeyman has finally found a good fit.

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