Mesa’s wild thing
Snell's penchant for wildness has decreased, but senior righty is still highly effective
When he was in high school, Nolan Snell could rear back and throw a fastball by nearly any batter he faced.
He didn’t need to throw much else.
“That’s how I’ve always been,” Snell said. “I have a little bit of velocity and can use that effectively wild, quick tempo and get guys out on my fastball. A lot of times, they don’t know where it’s going, and neither do I. That’s a benefit for me. It’s worked out so far.”
Sometimes he has outings that drive Colorado Mesa University baseball coach Chris Hanks crazy, but Snell gets results.
“We all know he is wildly effective,” Hanks said. “At times, it is strenuous to watch. The games he pitches aren’t short. He tends to throw a lot of pitches, but the hitters have a difficult time camping on anything. The proof’s in the pudding. It’s all about winning.”
The Mavericks’ senior right-hander owns the school record for innings pitched (250 1/3) and strikeouts (302). He is tied for career wins with Bill Johnson (1980-83) with 23. Snell is a three-time All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection and an all-region selection the past two years.
“I knew coming in this season I would have a chance to break a few records,” Snell said. “Those were not necessarily goals, but they were achievable things. We have a great squad to help me get the wins I needed to get. Hopefully I can get two or three more.”
The Mavericks (44-9), who dropped to sixth in the NCAA Division II Collegiate Baseball Newspaper coaches poll this week, play St. Mary’s (Texas) University (37-15) at 2 p.m. (MDT) Thursday in the NCAA South Central Tournament in Kingsville, Texas.
When he’s not working through a strikeout, walk or wild pitch, Snell is usually hollering and howling from the dugout.
“When Nolan’s not pitching, he’s our enthusiasm coach,” Hanks said. “He has a saying for every guy on the team. He keeps everyone engaged. Some of the things that come out of his mouth, I have to turn my head and laugh. He’s full of life.”
“He’s a character,” junior catcher Colton Schoelkopf said. “He keeps everyone laughing. He keeps it loose, which is important, so you’re not too tight or worrying about things too much.
“He quotes movies nonstop. He uses different little voices for everything. Nolan has learned to know when he can do it and when he can’t do it.”
Snell grew up watching the University of New Mexico baseball team and had an opportunity to play there out of high school.
“As soon as I got an offer to play there, I jumped on it as fast as I could,” Snell said. “I loved the campus there. I think it worked out for the best not staying there.”
Snell transferred to Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and played there one year.
He planned to return for his second year until he took a recruiting trip to Mesa.
“I remember when I came here on a recruiting trip, I told my mom, ‘I’ll look at it, but I don’t think I’ll sign,’ ” Snell said. “It was a great decision. I’ve had a pretty good career. I love this team. Hopefully we can do something special these last couple weeks.”
When he came to Mesa, Snell relied on his energy and fastball, racking up 108 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. He was 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA. Last year, he improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio and it showed in his record. Snell was 9-1 with a 4.46 ERA, 105 strikeouts and 47 walks in 82 2/3 innings.
“He’s got a lot of intensity,” Schoelkopf said. “He’s one of those pitchers that is effectively wild. You’ve usually got to keep him dialed in as much as possible. It’s definitely a challenge.”
“I think that’s something I learned to control a little more, is my energy,” Snell said. “My sophomore year I was real big into throwing every pitch as hard as I can. I was a lot more of a thrower than a pitcher. I think I’ve changed that somewhat. I can control my walks and keep my pitch counts lower.”
He started working on a slider earlier this year and it’s making a difference. Snell is 7-1 this season with a 2.85 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 43 walks in 75 2/3 innings.
“When he has command of his slider, he’s tough,” Hanks said. “He’s backed off his fastball a bit, and he’s pitching more. His walks have dropped.”