On the night before last year’s semifinal game at the Kansas state baseball tournament, Maize coach Rocky Helm asked then-junior pitcher Craig Nicks if he would prefer to pitch the semifinal or, should Maize advance, the championship game. The tall right-hander affectionately known by his teammates as Donkey didn’t hesitate: he wanted the ball with the title on the line.
Nicks didn’t disappoint, hurling a three-hit shutout and striking out seven. He entered his senior year as the unquestioned ace of the team.
Donkey has been Helm’s horse this year, settling down after some early-inning struggles to pitch deep into games with regularity. Recovery for a pitcher who throws so hard is paramount. Here’s what Nicks does to recover after a game:
Ice. The first step in Nicks’ road to recovery is applying ice to his shoulder, which helps reduce any swelling caused by the repeated motion of throwing a baseball faster than 90 mph.
Run. In addition to doing some light running after a game, Nicks will spend part of the next practice running in and around town. The goal is to reduce any lactic acid buildup in his body, particularly his arm. It’s also a good opportunity for Nicks to clear his head.
Hurdles. On the day after a start, Nicks will do hurdles work in the bullpen to loosen his hips, lower back and groin. The exercises help increase Nicks’ flexibility and decrease his likelihood of suffering an injury.
Unbeaten in the last two years, the routine appears to be working.