College Baseball: Catawba’s Nick Lomascolo
SALISBURY — Nick Lomascolo grins and explains the secret to his success is three simple words — breathe, smile and throw.
Breathing, smiling and throwing is getting it done. According to the record book, the southpaw is as good as any pitcher who’s ever worn a Catawba uniform.
If you like stats, Lomascolo has stats. A four-year staple in coach Jim Gantt’s rotation, he won his 31st game for the Indians on Friday with seven shutout innings against Brevard. That cold-weather win tied him with Tim Smith (2005-08) for the school’s all-time record.
“I never realized I was close to a record until someone mentioned it,” Lomascolo said. “I really don’t like to think about records. I don’t want to jinx myself. I don’t want it to take me five starts to get that next win.”
It likely will take him only one. He’ll take the baseball next Friday when SAC rival Lenoir-Rhyne visits Newman Park. At the very least, he’ll give the Indians a chance to win.
Lomascolo has put up seasonal marks of 7-3, 9-3 and 10-5 and is 5-1 this season, so his escalating wins total isn’t a shock.
But what may surprise you is he’s also approaching Catawba’s all-time mark for career strikeouts. He’s pushed past Heath Bost, Bob Hampton and Zach Snyder this season, and the only two names on the all-time list above him now are 1960s hummer Jerry Maye and 1980s fireballer Brian Boltz. Maye had 318 in four years. Boltz had 312 in three seasons. Lomascolo has 302.
Maye blew away 18 hitters in a game once, while Boltz fanned 17. Lomascolo has built his strikeout numbers through durability and consistency rather than huge games, but he owns a lot of Ks for someone who isn’t supposed to be a blazer.
“My velocity has gone up a lot at Catawba, and I can work off my fastball now,” Lomascolo said. “I’ve also gotten smarter as I’ve gotten older. I know what to throw to a hitter and when to throw it.”
Everyone, Lomascolo included, agrees the changeup is his best pitch, but don’t get the idea he’s a soft-tosser. The changeup was Pedro Martinez’s best pitch, and it’s always been Johan Santana’s best offering.
Actually, Lomascolo brings more than respectable heat. Catawba’s weight program has built him up to 6 feet, 190 pounds, and his fastball usually hums in the upper 80s. Then his changeup cruises to the plate looking identical to that fastball, only it’s coming 10 mph slower — and a hitter’s timing is disrupted.
“It’s not like he throws a lot of changeups, but he has an outstanding one,” Gannt said. “That changeup is always something he’s got in his back pocket.”
While there are big-league hurlers still trying to master the nuances of the pitch, Lomascolo has been a Jedi Knight in the art of the changeup since he was 13.
“I owe that to an umpire,” he said with a laugh. “I pitched a game when I was a kid and the umpire told my dad (Tom) that I was good, but I could be great if I had a changeup. The next day we started working on a changeup.”
It was at about this time that Lomascolo was pitching in a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., and a coach told him to relax and have fun — to breathe, smile and throw.
Lomascolo has carried that philosophy forward. He is the ultimate poker-faced pitcher. Watching Lomascolo pitch, you can’t tell if he’s in an intrasquad game or the World Series. You can’t tell if it’s the first inning or the ninth. You can’t tell if he’s down 1-0 or up 10-0. His expression never alters. It’s just breathe, smile and throw.
Catawba was fortunate to recruit Lomascolo, especially after he led Lake Norman High to the 3A state championship in 2009. There were Division I offers, but Lomascolo knew Gantt. They had been in opposite dugouts for summer scraps when Lomascolo’s Mooresville American Legion team played against Gantt’s Rowan County squad.
“He seemed like the right coach, and when I visited Catawba it was close to home and it seemed like the right place,” Lomascolo said. “Catawba had gone to the regional that year, and Coach Gantt told me they’d been one pitcher short of winning it. I wanted to be that pitcher.”
It’s worked out for everyone. Lomascolo was in the rotation as a freshman. He was SAC Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore. As a junior, he was brilliant in the World Series, and his 18 starts made him the No. 1 workhorse in all of D-II. This season, he’s been sharp, even with new backstops Danny Parisi and Jon Wallace replacing Greg Lawson as the targets for his fastballs and changeups.
Whether breathe, smile and throw will work at the play-for-pay level remains to be seen, but Gantt believes Lomascolo will get a pro opportunity.
“He’s left-handed, he knows how to pitch, he’s competitive, and you just can’t rattle him,” Gantt said. “They’re crazy if they don’t give him a chance.”