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Eicholtz leads Cambridge into 2A semifinals

By Scott Purks, Tribune staff
Published: May 15, 2013 Updated: May 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Cambridge Christian's ace Nick Eicholtz stands 6-foot-4, 180 pounds and throws a 94 mph fastball that dips.

At 1 p.m. today, Cambridge Christian's Nick Eicholtz will stand on the mound at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers and fire his first pitch in a Class 2A state semifinal.

If it is a fastball, which it most likely will be, the ball will exceed 90 mph — and it will sink.

It is a terribly nasty pitch coming from a great height because Eicholtz has long arms attached to his 6-foot-4 frame.

Chances are the batter will whiff. Eicholtz has struck out almost 70 percent of the batters he has faced this season (74 Ks out of 110 hitters), or more than an average of two out of every three.

“I don't really pay attention to stats,” he said. “I just try to do the best I can with every pitch.”

Cambridge Christian coach Sam Marsonek said that type of attitude is another reason Eicholtz is successful.

“He has God-given height and strength and ability, but he also the gift of focus,” Marsonek said. “He never lets his emotions change the way he throws.”

Which Marsonek admits was the opposite of himself when he threw for Jesuit (mid-1990s) and later for several pro teams after being drafted in the first round — 24th overall by the Rangers — in 1996.

“I might not have shown it, but I had all kinds of things running through my head,” said Marsonek, who ended up throwing only 1 1/3 innings of relief in the majors for the New York Yankees in 2004. “(Eicholtz) and I have talked a lot about the mental game.”

And the physical, and the spiritual, and the …

“Everything,” Eicholtz said. “(Marsonek) is so much a part of the person I am today.”

Two years ago, Marsonek solidified one of the biggest changes in Eicholtz's life, switching from full-time shortstop to full-fledged pitcher.

“I had spent my whole life fielding ground balls and taking batting practice,” said Eicholtz, who has grown several inches in the past few years. “But when (Marsonek) started talking about me as a pitcher, I listened. I knew that he understood everything about the game because he had been there. I trusted him.”

Good move. Not only was Eicholtz solid as a junior (3-1 with a 0.39 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 33 innings), but he also caught the eyes of pro scouts and several colleges, including the University of Alabama, with whom he signed a scholarship.

Now Marsonek believes Eicholtz might be selected within the first four rounds of the upcoming major league draft.

But first things first.

“Pitching in the state semifinals means so much to me because it's for my teammates and coach and all of us,” Eicholtz said. “It's a big moment.”

A big moment he hopes will propel the Lancers to their first state title in school history after four trips to the final four and two losses in the state final (2008 and 2009).

As for the plan, it will be one nasty pitch at a time. Eicholtz also features a curveball that he is confident throwing in any situation.

Of course, there always is the fastball — that sinks.

“(Marsonek) has told me, 'You can't teach sink,'” Eicholtz said. “That also gives me confidence.”