When Winthrop University coaches told Patrick Gamblin they wanted him to improve his curveball, the Harlem High School senior knew where to turn.
Former Greenbrier standout Nolan Belcher agreed to help Gamblin work on the pitch, and it paid off with an offer.
Gamblin faxed the Eagles his letter of intent on Nov. 12 and held his official ceremony at Harlem on Monday.
"I certainly appreciated it," Gamblin said of his meetings with Belcher. "It kind of earned me that scholarship, really."
Gamblin had attended a baseball camp at Winthrop in August. Coaches liked what they saw of the hard-throwing lefty, but they wanted him to work on his breaking stuff.
Belcher, also a southpaw, gave Gamblin pointers on his grip and release point.
Gamblin debuted his new-look pitch at a Winthrop showcase tournament on Sept. 12.
The school was prepared to offer Gamblin a 50 percent scholarship after the showcase. But, after coaches watched him again at a tournament in Jupiter, Fla., in late October, they upped it to 65 percent.
Gamblin also had an offer from Presbyterian College, a potential full ride to a school where annual tuition is nearly $30,000.
But Gamblin was more impressed with Winthrop's facilities and didn't like that the Blue Hose, new to Division I baseball, do not yet compete in conference tournaments.
"It's a great relief," Gamblin said. "I'm really excited to go to Winthrop. It's a nice place."
Gamblin will be back on the field for Harlem in the spring. Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said Gamblin, used mainly as a closer last season in addition to playing right field, could see more innings as a starter.
Gamblin's fastball has been clocked in the high 80s, but he's also a threat with his bat. He hit .485 for Lewis as a sophomore and .465 last season, with seven home runs and 41 RBI.
Lewis said Monday he thought Gamblin might be the first Division I signee from the school.
"He deserves it. He's a hard worker," Lewis said. "He's one of the hardest-working kids we've had."
Gamblin's work schedule has included marathon sessions in the batting cage with his father, Billy Gamblin, since he was about 10 years old. And, for about the same stretch, he's stayed busy playing travel ball.
It paid off with a Division I offer.
"I'm overjoyed by it," Patrick Gamblin said. "It's always been a goal. Now, it's come true."
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