Image credit: Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin (Photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)
Nick Loftin is in his third year as Baylor’s starting shortstop and, in that time, he’s established himself as one of the nation’s premier up-the-middle defenders and consistent hitters.
Loftin simply does a lot of things well on the diamond. He was voted a second-team Preseason All-American by MLB scouting directors, played last summer for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and is a .300 hitter for his career.
It’s still early this season, but Loftin may be tapping into another skillset as a junior. In nine games, he is hitting .351/.385/.649 and six of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases. One of those extra-base hits came Saturday against Louisiana State in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic, a massive two-run home run that Loftin launched out of Minute Maid Park, above the train tracks that tower above left field.
The home run sparked a comeback for the Bears, who went on to win 6-4, erasing a four-run deficit. Baylor (7-3) is now 2-0 on the weekend with wins against Missouri and LSU.
Loftin said he’d never hit a ball as far as he did Saturday.
“I’ve never seen anything go that far before,” he said. “It was really cool to see, but it was a good team win.”
Loftin was one of three Bears to hit homers in the sixth and seventh innings as a part of a six-run barrage that led them to a win against the No. 14 Tigers. Chase Wehsener and Ricky Martinez also got in on the power surge, one day after Mack Mueller hit two home runs in the win against Missouri.
That kind of power from several spots in the lineup is important for Baylor after it lost its top three power threats from last season’s team. Cole Haring (12), Shea Langeliers (10) and Davis Wendzel (8) combined for more than half of the Bears’ 57 home runs in 2019.
Loftin, listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, doesn’t look like a typical power hitter and it likely will never be the focal point of his game. But if he’s able to continue to drive the ball this spring, it portends good things both for Baylor and for him in this year’s draft.
Loftin said adding strength hasn’t been a focus for him. He’s simply trying to square up balls and has done a good job of that in the early going.
“I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball, and I’ve done that a few times,” he said. “That’s all I’m trying to do – put the barrel on the ball and let the pitcher do the work.”
Coach Steve Rodriguez said Loftin does a good job of continually making adjustments at the plate to advance as a hitter.
“From the first day he stepped on campus, his swing has always worked,” Rodriguez said. “What I like is he’s done some things to change his approach a little bit and at the same time he’s still a phenomenal hitter.”
Just as importantly as Loftin’s early-season power surge is the way he plays defense. He has not yet made an error this spring and he provides an anchor for the Bears’ infield.
Overall, it’s an impressive toolset that could push Loftin into the top-50 picks like Langeliers and Wendzel a year ago.
But the draft remains a few months away and Loftin is focused on helping the Bears this spring. He’s pleased with the team’s mettle, something they’ve shown this weekend on the big stage of the Shriners College Classic and especially Saturday against LSU.
“This team’s very resilient,” Loftin said. “We’ve got a lot of fight. This was a big team win. From top to bottom, everybody in the dugout they knew their role, they did their job and we came out on top.”