Lopers catch Chase: Glenwood Springs High senior to play baseball at Nebraska-Kearney
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The problem Chase Nieslanik had during this past high school baseball season, technically, was a nice problem to have.
The Glenwood Springs High School senior lefthanded pitcher earlier this week had to take a moment to think about the number of college baseball coaches who had shown interest in signing him. He finally figured there were more than a half-dozen schools he’d been in contact with over the course of his senior year with the Demons.
“Yeah, there were a lot,” Nieslanik said with a bashful tone. “That really surprised me what kind of attention got.”
All of that attention got him some financial help to play baseball at the University of Nebraska-Kearney in Kearney, Nebraska. In signing to play for the Lopers, Nieslanik is the first Glenwood baseball player to advance to play at the college level since Cody Derby, who in 2012 signed to play baseball at NAIA Ottawa University (Kansas).
“When it comes to players I’ve coached, Chase ranked right up there near the top,” said Glenwood coach Eric Nieslanik, who has coached baseball at Glenwood for 10 years and, prior to that, at Roaring Fork for nine. “And that’s not just coming from me, because he got a lot of very high praise from the coaches at our all-league coaches meeting too.”
And for good reason.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound lefty has a four-pitch arsenal that includes a two- and four-seam fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He said his fastball has been clocked as high as 86 MPH, and the spin he’s developed on his two-seam fastball has helped those pitches to tail away from batters late and increase his strikeout ratio.
That, in and of itself, has been huge. This year, he finished the season with 61 strikeouts in 43 innings, which is an even better ratio than the 66 strikeouts he compiled in 56 2/3 innings as a junior. He’s also developed control — 59 walks and 127 strikeouts in the past two seasons — and his body frame fits the prototypical mold of tall pitchers that many college programs crave.
The program he’s going to isn’t a bad one, either. The Lopers, former members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, finished in the middle of the pack in the Mid-American Athletic Association standings this past season with a 29-21 overall record (22-14 MIAA). They’ve reached the conference tournament the past two seasons after joining the MIAA three seasons ago and most recently qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament in 2010.
Among the programs who courted Nieslanik were NJCAA schools like Dodge City Community College and Garden City Community College (both in Kansas), along with Western Nebraska Community College and a Division I school in the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Nieslanik, however, said the coaching staff at Kearney impressed him the most, along with the biology program he’s looking to get into and get a degree out of.
Of course, he’d also like to take the baseball thing further than college if possible.
“I’d like to take this as far as my skills can take me,” he said. “I’d like to go all the way, but it’s really up to me to push myself to put the work in to do it.”
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As a new transplant to the area, each week I will feature a trail within the Garfield County limits. For this inaugural week, I’m highlighting Glenwood Springs’ own Atkinson Canal Trail.