University of Pittsburgh sophomore Nick Yarnall and the Panthers veteran baseball coach Joe Jordano are both in agreement about one thing — Yarnall is at home with a baseball bat in his hand.
Yarnall, a Hempfield graduate, is hitting .308 (12 for 39) with three doubles, a triple, three RBIs and 10 runs scored in 16 games with 10 starts for the Panthers, who are 9-10 overall and 3-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Nick’s best tool is his bat,” Jordano said. “He can really swing it.”
The coach and his staff have been working with Yarnall trying to change his hitting style.
“He has done well with that and feeling comfortable with the adjustments,” Jordano said. “He’s doing a solid job for us.”
The change has Yarnall hitting the other way.
“I worked all fall and winter on that, but now I’m working on my swing path so I can create more power and hit the ball hard more consistently,” he said. “Yeah, I would say the best part of my game is hitting.”
The problem has been trying to find a spot on the field for the 6-foot, 170-pounder.
“Right now, Nick is playing some first base and has seen some time in the outfield as well,” Jordano said.
Yarnall was a little apprehensive prior to the start of the season. He hit .241 (14-for-58) in 40 games with 12 starts as a freshman with a lot of those times serving as a pinch hitter. He had just 58 at-bats.
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know if I would get an opportunity to start or even play at all,” he said. “But I got some chances early and did well enough to stay in the lineup part time. I wasn’t too happy with the way I played because I know I could have contributed a lot more than what I showed.”
Yarnall really got a chance to test his game last summer.
“I played in what I think is the best college summer league in the country (Northwoods League),” he said. “I played for the Kalamazoo Growlers and we played a total of 72 games, which is one almost every day.”
Yarnall hit just .240 for Kalamazoo but had four doubles, three triples, three home runs and 23 RBIs.
“It just gets you more toned and you just get so many more repetitions than everyone else,” he said. “I also hit the weight room hard and got a lot stronger.”
Yarnall had a solid high school career, including being named to the Preseason Under Armour All-American team his senior year. He was also named to the Rawlings All-Region team. He played for the PA Select club team and the Orioles scout team for two years.
Because of that résumé, there were a number of colleges interested in Yarnall and a number he was interested in including North Carolina State, Kentucky, Mississippi State and some Division II colleges.
“I came to Pitt because they were the ones that showed the most love,” he said. “Pitt was just home for me. And, I wanted to play in a big-time conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference is just that.”
Yarnall has a couple of goals for himself and the Panthers this season.
“My personal goal is to hit over .300 and have over five home runs,” he said. “I’m there with my average right now but my home runs will be coming.”
As far as the team is concerned, the main goal is for the Panthers to sweep every conference team every week.
“If we can make it to the ACC championship, go to the Regionals and put Pitt on the baseball map like we deserve, that would make me very happy,” he said.
Pitt got off to a great start in that direction by winning two of three against North Carolina last weekend. The Panthers travel to Durham, North Carolina, to face Duke in three games this weekend.
“Nick is a great teammate and a very solid player,” Jordano said. “He is doing a great job and his future here is very bright.”