Kilcrease closes down Power's win over Hickory
As a 5-foot-6 pitcher, Nate Kilcrease has never fit the baseball prototype and, it's safe to say, has scared away his share of big-league scouts.
Scouts can be a hesitant bunch who generally prefer their pitchers to stand tall on the mound and deliver pitches with what they call a downhill trajectory. Taking chances on short guys can be bad for a scout's job security.
Kilcrease knows all about such matters but continues to pitch well for the Power. He picked up his 13th save Saturday night at Appalachian Power Park, blanking the Hickory Crawdads in the ninth inning to preserve a 4-3 victory and lift the Power into a tie for second place. A crowd of 4,021 attended.
A 23-year-old Alabama native, he pitched four seasons at the University of Alabama and, except for his lack of height, probably would have been drafted after an outstanding junior season.
To their credit, the Oakland Athletics chose him in the 30th round of the 2011 draft but showed little patience and released him in early May of this year.
After signing with the Pittsburgh organization, he joined the Power on May 29 and since then has compiled a 1.32 earned run average and earned the role of closer.
For Kilcrease, fighting stereotypes is nothing new.
"You always have to pitch with a chip on your shoulder,'' said the 170-pounder, "because your back is always against the wall. And everybody's out there looking for you not to succeed.''
Power manager Rick Sofield says Kilcrease's success is more than just a matter of pitching talent.
"He's a little bit of a cocky kid,'' said Sofield. "He's got a little redneck to him from Alabama. He's an aggressive guy. And he's got a sense of humor. He was a No. 1 starter at Alabama for a little while. He brings some of that moxie with him, which isn't a bad thing. He's had a great season. He's made a tremendous difference here, not only stuff-wise but personality-wise.''
Kilcrease thought he might be drafted after high school, having talked briefly with Red Sox and Astros scouts, but nothing came of it.
Instead of moping, he continued to persevere.
"Playing pro ball was my dream since I was a little kid,'' he said. "I got to go to the school [Alabama] that I always wanted to go to. And while I was there, I worked my tail off and became one of the main guys there. The coaches just said to me, 'You're not going to get drafted high, but take what you get and do the best you can with it.' They had played pro ball, and they knew how it worked.''
The victory moved the Power into a second-place tie with Crawdads, the but first-place Hagerstown swept a doubleheader from Delmarva on Saturday, giving the Suns a 31/2-game lead in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.
The Power has eight games remaining.
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.