Fox Chapel grad McRandal sets sights on ‘bigger ring’ with D-II World Series-bound Mercyhurst
Nick McRandal is having a positive freshman year as a pitcher, and he is enjoying a postseason journey with Mercyhurst that has led to a berth the NCAA Division II World Series.
McRandal, a Fox Chapel graduate, proved to his coaches that he can handle pitching in high-leverage situations at the collegiate level, and he’s ready to continue to contribute this week when called upon out of the bullpen as the Lakers try to win a national title.
No. 7 Mercyhurst (36-13) opens with No. 2 Columbus State (Ga.) in the first round at 7 p.m. Sunday at the USA National Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C.
The Division II World Series is an eight-team, double-elimination tournament.
The Lakers already brought home some hardware with the Atlantic Regional title and a PSAC East regular-season title, and they want to add to the collection.
“We want to win a bigger ring,” McRandal said. “We have the momentum on our side. We got four straight wins against tough PSAC opponents, so why stop there? Why not try and go for it all? I think that’s what everyone’s mindset is.”
McRandal is one of the top relief arms for the Lakers, sporting a 3.20 ERA with 33 strikeouts and two saves over 25 1⁄3 innings and 19 appearances.
His biggest appearance this season was against defending national champion West Chester in the Atlantic Regional.
With Mercyhurst trailing 2-0, McRandal came in with two outs in the seventh and held West Chester scoreless over the next 1 1⁄3 innings. The Lakers scored three runs in the ninth and won 3-2. McRandal was credited with the victory.
“Outside of the first game, the theme of the Atlantic Regional for us was score runs in the ninth and hope it’s enough. It was unbelievable how we came back in those games,” McRandal said.
“Tyler (Garbee) started, and he did an amazing job. I came in and took care of those four outs. I struggled with my fastball in the ninth, so they brought Adam Jeannette in for the save and I’m glad he came in. I think I took the win away from Tyler in that game, but all three of us deserved that win. Everybody pitched well. We’ve had that all year.”
McRandal knew he would be a reliever at the beginning of the spring, but he was unsure what his exact role would be.
His first test came in the opening PSAC series of the season when he was called upon for a save against Cal (Pa.) after the Vulcans had scored three runs in the seventh to cut it to a one-run game.
McRandal got the final two outs to preserve the victory.
“I was kind of shocked that he threw me into tight situations early in the year, but I like pitching in those situations,” McRandal said. “I feel more relaxed, even though it probably doesn’t make sense to be calm in those situations.
“The win against Cal was a great feeling, and it gave me the confidence going forward that I could contribute more. It put trust into the coaches, too. It was good to get that out of the way early. It was like ripping a Band-Aid off. You have to do it at some point.”
McRandal said he has enjoyed the support from his coaching staff, which has developed several pitchers who have been drafted into Major League Baseball, including Seattle Mariners reliever Dan Altavilla, an Elizabeth Forward graduate. McRandal also is thankful for the support of his parents, Diane and Michael. He said his mother has not missed an inning of a Mercyhurst game this season, even when they played long into the night.
“Our average start time in the playoffs has been like 10 p.m. because we always seem to get the late game and it would always rain before our game,” McRandal said. “My mom has been there no matter what time it started.”
Mercyhurst last made the D-II World Series in 2015, when Freeport graduate Ryan Siegel was the starting center fielder. The Lakers won one game before they were eliminated.
McRandal looks at this year as a sign of a bright future for his time at the program.
“For our freshman year, we set the goals pretty high and making it to the World Series is what we want to set as the standard for our class,” McRandal said. “We knew we had the talent to get here. We had our struggles during the season like any other team goes through, but we got through them and pulled it out in the regional.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.