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Nania making most of PHCC opportunity

March 10, 2016

By CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The junior college system has a unique way of presenting student-athletes with the avenues needed in order to achieve athletic greatness. Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) red-shirt freshman baseball player Brandon Nania is hoping to take advantage of that situation this spring.

So far, so good.

Nania is on a recent surge for the Patriots, and his 7-for-9 performance at the plate Wednesday (Mar. 9) against Guilford Tech and Rockingham Community Colleges provided another boost to the infielder’s numbers. Along with his two homers and double, not only did his slugging percentage climb to nearly .800 but his batting average jumped over .450 in his 19 games played this season.

Nania is 13-for-19 in his last six games as PHCC is in the midst of a 10-game homestand which concludes Friday and Saturday against Jamestown Community College. The left-handed slugger leads the team in hits (26), home runs (3), batting average (.464), on-base percentage (.505) and slugging percentage (.787). He’s added 15 runs, nine doubles and 20 RBI to his totals, as well.

The freshman said getting past the opening-weekend series at USC-Lancaster was the biggest challenge so far this season.

“I think the Louisburg series was definitely big for me,” Nania said. “The first weekend wasn’t bad but I came out that second weekend and felt it was a game changer for me to put the ball in play and bring some runs across. I’m just seeing the ball really well right now.”

More remarkable is the fact that Nania was able to return to form after having Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2014. Originally recruited by West Virginia University out of Franklin Regional High School outside Pittsburgh, Nania said the situation in Morgantown, W.V. didn’t work out as he expected, and later transferred to NCAA, Division II Slippery Rock University an hour north of Pittsburgh.

It was during a fall game with The Rock that nearly everything changed.

On a routine throw from third base to first, Nania said he felt a pop in his elbow and a shooting sensation to his fingers. Doctors later said that the injury was inevitable as deteriorating ligaments around his elbow made it only a matter of time before something happened.

Following a lengthy rehab process, questions surrounded the western Pennsylvania native’s future in the sport.

“When I first found out that I had to get Tommy John surgery my dad called me and told me everything was going to be fine. It’s still hard to believe because as a baseball player it’s still in the back of your mind,” Nania said.

Through connections with his summer coach, PHCC first-year coach Frank Jagoda entered the picture. Jagoda said he saw Nania play several times in high school and when he found out that the infielder was looking for an opportunity to play somewhere, the coach reached out to him. With little knowledge of the school in southwest Virginia, Nania decided to explore the situation more and the rest became history.

Looking to get back to the NCAA Division I or II level again, PHCC opened the doors to make that trip a reality once again.

“I came down (to Martinsville) for a workout in August and coach (Jagoda) liked what he saw and told me everything I wanted hear,” Nania said. “I knew he would be a great coach for this team and this was the right fit.”

Jagoda said he saw lots of potential in Nania during high school and then more so during the Patriots’ fall season. Typically seen in the No. 3 spot of the lineup this season, Nania provides a reliable and productive bat for the Patriots offense. With time spent at first and third base, as well as a designated hitter, keeping Nania’s bat active is something Jagoda plans to do.

“It’s just the ability to keep his barrel in the hitting zone for a long time,” said Jagoda of Nania’s strengths at the plate. “That’s something he’s done very well with and also staying within himself.”

Jagoda has a variety of players on the team, including Nania, that are able to be moved around not only in the field but up and down the lineup, as well. As long as his top bat continues to produce others around him should see an increase in production at the same time, Jagoda said.

The Patriots currently hold a .330 team batting average and team slugging percentage of .496.

Filed under: Baseball

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