June 11, 2010


Little Guys, Big Impact

Brian Harris of Vanderbilt

Keith Werman of Virginia

Rico Noel of Coastal Carolina


Kilcrease Big Time for Crimson Tide

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


The odds were against Alabama.


After a loss in the winners’ bracket final to host Georgia Tech, the Crimson Tide needed three straight wins – including two against the Yellow Jackets – to win the Atlanta Regional.


But just as it did in the regular season, Alabama responded. Backs against the wall, the Crimson Tide eliminated Mercer. Then Adam Morgan tossed a complete game to shut down Georgia Tech.


In the rematch with the Yellow Jackets, the Crimson Tide trailed 6-3 in the third before scoring five in the top of the fourth. Crimson Tide skipper turned to Nathan Kilcrease (above), the 5-6, 160-pound junior right-hander from Phenix City, Ala. Kilcrease, nicknamed “Peanut,” followed up a 99-pitch win over Elon with six innings of two-run ball as Alabama shocked Georgia Tech for the second straight night.


Gaspard told reporters in the post-game press conference: “What can you say? You guys saw it with Kilcrease. He just kept battling. When it got to the back end of the game, I think as much as anything, the team believes so much in that kid that we were going to keep the ball in his hands and we were going to win or lose with 28 on the mound. We felt pretty good that he was going to take us home, and that’s what he did.”   


Also in the post-gamer, senior Jake Smith added: “He’s awesome. Small in stature, big in heart, that’s what I've always said about him. He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever played with.”


Kilcrease has been doing it all year. After going 7-4 his first two seasons, he's gone 8-2 with a 2.42 ERA and four saves in 33 appearances (five starts). Opponents hit .208 off him. He, Jimmy Nelson and Morgan have been huge in helping the Crimson Tide win 12 of 14 and enter a Super Regional date at Clemson as one of the hotter teams in the country (over those 14 games, Alabama has held opponents to four runs or less 10 times).


“Peanut” took time out to answer our questions about “Little Guys, Big Impact.” Among his gems, we asked him what he’d tell coaches about guys that are “too small.” He said, “To the coaches, I would just simply ask them not to overlook a guy because of his size. You never know when you’re going to need a small guy with a lot of heart.”  


Describe the feeling of winning the Regional:
“Winning the (Atlanta) Regional was something I have always wanted to experience and is still kind of unreal to me. The team has worked so hard all year long, and it feels really good knowing that our hard work is finally paying off. The feeling that we have right now can only be surpassed by winning the (NCAA) Super Regional and going to Omaha.”


Was it even more special coming from the losers' bracket to win on the road?
“I think coming out of the losers bracket to win, gives us more confidence coming into the (NCAA) Super Regional because it proved to a lot of people how strong we are mentally.”


What kind of stuff did you expect to have when you entered the final game? Did you have any idea you'd have the stamina to go six innings after starting the first game Friday?

“I felt like I would be able to go three innings in the championship game.  I thought that my pitches got better as the night went on.”

When did you know you could finish the game?

“When I got to the eighth inning and then made it out of the jam, I knew the game was mine to finish.”


Looking back, what was the key to you and Adam Morgan shutting down Georgia Tech, one of the top lineups in the country? Did you learn anything from Morgan's complete game, and how clutch of a performance was that?
“When watching Adam pitch, I did notice that he seemed to have the Tech offense a little off balance with his good off-speed pitches and he was locating his fastball in and out. That was really the key to beating them.”

We're featuring some "little guys" who have made big impacts on their squads. How tall and how much did you weigh in high school? What was the recruiting process like? Were there schools that shied away from you because of your size?
“I was 5'6 coming out of high school and weighed 155 pounds.  The recruiting process was normal. I had a lot of offers from Division I schools.”


What did Alabama see and how did you end up with the Crimson Tide?

“I guess Alabama saw a guy that was short, but was tough.  They saw me at a (baseball) showcase one day and called me that night, and I decided within a couple weeks that Alabama was where I was going to school.”

What's the reaction from fans on the road when you take the mound? Do they ever get a feeling of overconfidence? And how long does it take to silence them, or earn their respect?

“The fans always give me a hard time, but I never really let it bother me.  It normally takes a couple of innings for them to realize they are not affecting the way I pitch.”

Are you surprised at all of the success you've had when you look around the league and see that you're one of the smallest guys?

“No, not really. I mean, yeah it’s nice to be a small guy who is not supposed to have a lot of success but I have always thought I could make it in this league.”


Has your size forced you to work harder at all? Do you feel like you've had to prove yourself at every level?
“Well, being my size I definitely can never take a day off. I always have to try and outwork my competition.”

What would you tell college coaches around the country about recruiting guys who are "too small?" And how about to those "little guys" around the country who dream of playing college baseball but often hear the words "too small?"
“I would tell them that you’re never too small to live out your dreams. As long as you believe in yourself and work hard you will get your opportunity, and when you get that opportunity you have to take advantage of it. To the coaches, I would just simply ask them not to overlook a guy because of his size. You never know when you’re going to need a small guy with a lot of heart.”

When did you become known as "Peanut" at Alabama? How do you like that nickname?
“I brought the nickname with me. It has been with me since I was nine years old. I like the nickname, and my teammates liked it when they met me.”

What does the Crimson Tide have to do this weekend to beat another ACC team - Clemson - on the road?
“I think we just need to not get caught up in the atmosphere and just play our game. We need to pitch well and play defense and get big hits when runners are in scoring position which we have been doing all year.”


(photos courtesy of Alabama Media Relations Office)