Throughout his senior year at Greenbrier High School, Nick Wandless had a plan - he wanted eventually to enter college athletics, then work hard and prove himself at the next level.
The 2002 Greenbrier graduate is still on course to achieve those goals, but there's been a slight change of plans.
"I guess it was fate for me to play baseball," Wandless said last week after signing a letter of intent to attend USC Aiken on a baseball scholarship next season.
Wandless was a standout fullback and linebacker for the Wolfpack football team, but he didn't garner any scholarship offers to play his favorite sport. He was prepared to walk on at Georgia Southern University this fall and try to become a gridiron star in Statesboro.
A solid spring with the Pack baseball team prompted a scholarship offer from USCA, and Wandless was happy to join the Peach Belt Conference squad.
"I was looking to play football, but I'm a baseball player now. I had a couple of small offers in football, but those didn't pan out. When baseball season came around, I started pitching and a couple of (college) teams noticed me."
Wandless began his prep career as a catcher, and played left field in 2001, but as a senior he moved to the mound, where he soon found his comfort zone.
"I like being in control of what I do, and with pitching, you can control the whole game," he said.
Wandless was definitely in control in 2002 - he lost his first and last starts of the season, but in between the bookend defeats, he reeled of 12 straight victories.
After his signing ceremony Tuesday at the Brierpatch, Wandless wasn't even sure of his win-loss record; his main priority was pacing the Pack to a Region 3-AAAA title and leading the march to the Class AAAA state playoff semifinals.
"He's definitely a team player; there's no selfishness in him," Greenbrier coach Ed Williams said. "He'll do whatever it takes to help the team. I think he's proven that by playing left field, then coming in and pitching."
Wandless, a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, now knows that the Lord does move in mysterious ways.
"It came as a shock to me when Coach Williams asked me to pitch. I thought I was going to pitch a couple of games here and there. I was just thinking, 'Well, if I can pitch a couple of games and get us a couple of wins, we could do all right.' And it turned out I was the No. 1 starting pitcher."
He continued, "Pitching really came pretty naturally for me. I know I have a bunch of problems with my mechanics; I just get up there and sling it sometimes. The coaches at USC Aiken are real good, and they'll work with me. Hopefully, I'll have a good college career."
The Division II Pacers may use him as a back-up catcher, which wouldn't bother Wandless, who also is a strong offensive player. Still, he doesn't want to relinquish his spot on the hill.
"I hope to be pitching in a couple of games next year, and just contribute to the team as much as I can," he said. "I'm just glad I've got a scholarship and somewhere to play."
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