Nick Brink Stands Out On The Mound And In The Classroom For Portland


Image credit: Portland righthander Nick Brink (Photo courtesy of Portland Pilots Digital Media)

Nick Brink has led Portland on the mound all season. Serving as the No. 1 starter, he earned all-West Coast Conference honors and helped the Pilots finish second in the conference standings.

While Brink, a redshirt junior, has been pitching the Pilots into WCC contention and himself into draft contention, he’s also been hard at work in the classroom. In addition to being the staff ace, Brink is taking on the challenging academic load of a computer science major.

Playing baseball at a level that could make Brink a top five to 10–round draft pick or getting a 3.95 GPA as a computer science major would be difficult on their own. Combining the two significantly raises the level of difficulty, but Brink can’t imagine doing it any differently.

“It’s an expectation I like to hold myself to,” Brink said. “I like to do that in all aspects. I like to challenge myself academically and when I step on the field I have high expectations. I want to do whatever I can to get a win for the team.”

Brink has done plenty to help the Pilots win this year. Portland, led by its stout rotation of Brink, sophomore righthander Carter Gaston and junior righthander Sam Stuhr, is 35-17 and heads to the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed. It is aiming for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991 and is on the brink of matching the program record for most wins in a season (36), set in 1980.

Brink has been a consistent force at the top of the rotation. He is 9-4, 3.35 with 117 strikeouts (seventh-most nationally) and 19 walks in 94 innings. His 117 strikeouts are the second most in a season in program history, trailing only Ken Dayley’s 138 in 1980. Brink has thrown at least six innings in 12 of his 14 starts, giving the Pilots the kind of traditional No. 1 starter that has become so rare in college baseball.

Just about every week, no matter how big the moment, Brink has found a way to come through. Coach Geoff Loomis cited Brink’s complete game against San Francisco earlier this month as one such example. Portland was playing a Thursday-Saturday series because of graduation ceremonies. In a short week, Brink threw a complete game on 113 pitches, keeping the bullpen rested for the rest of the weekend and giving everyone else a chance to stay on a more normal schedule.

“We were on a short week because of graduation, and everyone was feeling a bit of that,” Loomis said. “His ability to throw a complete game set up the entire series.

“He saves the bullpen. You go into Saturday with a clear advantage.”

Brink has worked hard to develop into that kind of pitcher. He was used sparingly as a freshman because, in his words, he “didn’t pitch great.” He was on track to take a step forward as a sophomore, but was injured less than two weeks before Opening Day and needed Tommy John surgery.

Brink returned healthy almost exactly a year later and started Portland’s second game of the season. But as he was building back up, he was kept on a tight pitch count, a limitation that eventually pushed him to the bullpen for a time. He returned to the rotation late in the season and it spurred him to set a goal of being a full-time starter in 2024.

That goal has been realized and more. He’s made every start this season and only six pitchers nationally have thrown more innings than him. Brink said he spent the summer working on getting stronger and that work has paid off.

“I took time off from throwing and focused on doing everything else,” Brink said. “I think all the work I put in over the summer really translated to a lot of success in the fall and still in the spring.”

Listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Brink attacks hitters with a low 90s fastball that can get up to 96 mph. He throws a good slider and changeup and can also mix in a curveball. None of his pitches really pop as plus offerings, but he pounds the strike zone, and his control helps them play up.

Brink has made significant strides on the mound at Portland. He was a local, under-the-radar recruit. Loomis said his stuff has always been solid and he had the build of a pitcher, but it wasn’t until he tightened up his command that he really made a jump.

“He’s really built like a pitcher—he’s tall and his hips start really high,” Loomis said. “He looks like a pitcher. He had some good stuff in high school, but he didn’t know what he was doing a whole lot. Then (he) became a strike thrower and that’s when it took off for him.”

Meanwhile, off the mound, Brink was taking on a demanding educational path. Portland is a strong academic school and Loomis, who has been the head coach at his alma mater for nine years, has had several players who have done engineering. He’s never had a computer science major before Brink, however.

Brink didn’t go to Portland intending to major in engineering. He was the valedictorian of his class at Cleveland High in Portland and wanted to study physics in college. He had enjoyed his physics class in high school, learning about kinematics and motion.

“I’ve always had that love for science,” he said. “I knew they’d be fascinating. It’s cool to know how things in the world worked.”

Brink said his science background has helped him on the field.

“Definitely being more inclined to math and science and looking at the metrics for all my pitches and my plots and everything, it’s helped,” he said. “The math and science-y skills have definitely translated.”

Unfortunately, the Portland physics department isn’t very large and fitting classes around his baseball schedule was a challenge. But Brink had found a new source of fascination: computer science. He had taken a required class and loved it.

“It was by far my favorite class that semester,” Brink said. “It was great. I had never taken any coding classes in high school, so it was new to me. It was a whole new realm, there was so much to learn for me. I really enjoyed that.”

Brink has enjoyed the hands-on work of computer science. Last year, he worked on a project to code a multiplayer checkers game. This semester, he worked on a group project to build a website for the government of Malawi to store information. Next school year, he will assigned an even more involved project that he will work on for the full school year as a capstone class.

The way Brink is pitching, however, computer science may have to wait. Brink this season has earned the attention of scouts, and he projects to be drafted sometime on the second day of the draft. Portland has had just four players drafted in the top-10 rounds in the 21st century, and he has a solid chance to be the program’s highest drafted player in more than 20 years.

Brink has taken the increased attention in stride.

“It affects you as much as you let it affect you,” he said. “Undeniably I’ve seen my name, talked to scouts. I’ve never gone through that process before. But once I get on the field none of that matters anymore.”

Brink, like the rest of the Pilots, is still firmly focused on trying to break Portland’s long postseason drought. But there’s also no doubt that he’s already left his mark on the program, both on the field and off it. He’s the example the Portland coaching staff gives to their younger players to watch and one of their brightest stars.

Last year, Loomis asked the players to do a self-evaluation after the season. Brink, who already has a nearly perfect GPA, said he wanted to improve his grades.

“He’s one of a kind, truly,” Loomis said. “That speaks to what he’s trying to do.”

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