Kyle Nicolas Rewarded For Breakout Season
Supplemental second-round pick Kyle Nicolas, the nephew of former Penn State quarterback and 1983 NFL first-round pick Todd Blackledge, had his own brief football career cut short by injury.
“I only played football in the seventh grade,” said Nicolas, who lives down the street from Blackledge in Massillon, Ohio. “I got destroyed a couple of times (on sacks). It wasn’t too fun.”
Nicolas, a 21-year-old righthander, has gotten much more enjoyment out of baseball.
Between his sophomore and junior years of high school, he grew from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2. As a senior at Jackson High, he won state titles in basketball, as a starting shooting guard, and in baseball, where he went 8-0, 0.50.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney won the recruiting battle to sign Nicolas, while encouraging the pitcher’s ambitious plan of turning pro in three years, earning his bachelor's degree in business and becoming a high draft pick.
Nicolas accomplished all three.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound righthander was drafted 61st overall by the Marlins as the team banked on his potential.
“I’ve coached six first-rounders, and Kyle stacks up will all of them,” Maloney said.
Nicolas missed the fall of his freshman year with a torn meniscus in his left knee. That injury—and a lack of command—contributed to a 5.21 ERA as a freshman and a 6.02 mark as a sophomore.
“I was trying to do too much,” Nicolas said. “I was trying to prove myself to my teammates.”
A big 2019 summer as a closer in the Cape Cod League gave Nicolas confidence entering his junior year, capped by a 17-strikeout, one-walk performance against Sacred Heart in his last start.
He also cut his walk rate from 8.3 per nine innings to 2.7, while showcasing an impressive arsenal.
“His fastball is electric at 94-98 (mph),” Maloney said. “His slider grades out as better than big league average, and his curve may be his best pitch, even though he didn’t need it in college.
“I think he will be a front-end starter in the majors, and I don’t think he’s that far away."