Sandra Day O’Connor (Phoenix) third baseman Nolan Gorman, considered one of the top draft prospects among high school players, is hitting .397 with 32 RBI and 10 homers, but there’s one problem.
Almost nobody in Arizona wants to pitch to him. The Arizona commit has been walked 41 times, including once this season with the bases loaded.
In the Eagles’ playoff opener on April 28, he was walked three times, including once intentionally. The other time up, he took a 3-1 pitch for a three-run homer in an 11-8 win.
“I tried to hit the ball as hard as I could,” Gorman told the Arizona Republic. “Cut the lead in half and good things happen after that.”
“They tend him to walk him a little,” O’Connor coach Jeff Baumgartner said. “Seventeen of them have been intentional. He doesn’t expand the strike zone. As they work more off the plate, he looks to hit it the other way. Of his 10 home runs, three of them have been to center field. He’s adjusted to the pitching.”
This is Gorman’s third season of double-digit homers and over the summer, he won the High School Baseball All-Star Game Home Run Derby in Miami and the Under Armour Home Run Derby in Chicago.
“I think he proved it over the summer, playing the best competition,” said Rob Gorrell, his coach with the AZ Sandlot Elite summer baseball team. “With his bat speed, once he gets to minor league baseball, he’ll be fine. Right now, guys are throwing him breaking balls on a 3-0 count.”
One of Gorman’s most impressive shots came at the Perfect Game All-America Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park. The left-handed hitting Gorman turned on an inside 96-mph fastball by Mason Denaburg of Merritt Island, Fla., and easily knocked it over the right-field fence.
That didn’t surprise anyone who has coached or played with him. Baumgartner remembers specifically a homer that Gorman hit his sophomore year that opened his eyes.
“The wind was blowing in from right field about 70 mph,” Baumgartner said. “I told the team that there’s no chance of hitting the ball out, so don’t even try for it. Guys were hitting the ball to center field and it would be blown into second base. Of course, on Nolan’s second at-bat, he just turns on one and hits it into the jet stream and hits it out to right field. That was my aha! moment.”
The Arizona commit isn’t known for his rah-rah style, but he gets his message across.
“He’s a quiet guy but he commands such a presence,” Baumgartner said. “The fact that he’s so humble and hard-working has been really good leadership for us. He’s the guy who will pull a young guy aside and say, ‘This is how we do things.’ ”
O’Connor is playing in the state semifinals this weekend. If the Eagles advance, there could be a rematch in the state finals between Gorman and Mountain Ridge (Glendale) left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore, one of Gorman’s closest friends.
In their only other meeting this season, Liberatore won the battle with Gorman going 0-for-3 against his friend.
“They’re both competitive with each other,” Baumgartner said. “I think Nolan got the best of him his sophomore year and I think the last two years, Liberatore had his number pretty good. We’d like another chance at him.”