Nick Crowe returns home to lead the Bucs
Nick Crowe returns home to lead the Bucs
Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The East Tennessee State baseball team is off to their best start in a decade, due in large part to a strong group of newcomers. One player that has made an immeasurable difference in the fortunes of the Buccaneer program is senior second baseman Nick Crowe (Johnson City, Tenn.).


Going into a four-game homestand, ETSU is 17-10 on the season, 7-8 in Southern Conference play. The Bucs have already won series against SoCon powers Elon and UNC Greensboro


From the leadoff spot in the order, Nick has been an offensive force for the Bucs, ranking third on the team with a .359 batting average and second with 26 runs scored. Crowe has shown the potential to beat opponents with both his power and his speed, as he is second on the team with five home runs and is tied for second on the team with eight stolen bases in nine attempts.


Nick has played even better through the Bucs' first 15 Southern Conference games, batting .380 with three homers, five RBIs and 12 runs scored. He is also a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen bases in SoCon play.


"Nick has been a great addition," said ETSU head coach Tony Skole. "He has brought many intangibles to our club; you can not coach the things he brings to the park on a daily basis.  Aggressiveness, toughness, competitiveness, playing with passion; these are a few of the things which he has brought to our program and they have rubbed off on our other players. Nick is a great competitor and his hatred for losing is one of his greatest assets."


Crowe is the prototypical leadoff batter in the order, as he has reached base 49 percent of the times (18-for-37) he has led off an inning this season.


"Nick has been phenomenal on getting on base and making things happen for us this year," commented Skole. "He is a catalyst for our offense. When he is on top of his game he is a very tough out and can drive opposing pitchers and defenses crazy."


Setting the tone for his season, Nick belted a home run in his first Buccaneer at-bat, a leadoff shot against Niagara on Feb. 18. He also hit leadoff shots in the first two games (both Buccaneer victories) in a SoCon series, Mar. 11-13 at Furman.


"I am just trying to get on base," said Crowe. "I have found some power this year, Coach Skole changed my swing and I like it a lot. If home runs come, they come, but I am definitely not thinking about them."


Though his first 24 games this season, Nick has scored a run in all but four games and has recorded a hit in all but three contests. He currently has hit in 15 of 16 games and has crossed the plate at least once in nine of his last 11 contests. 


He is also a very smart player, dropping a bunt for a base hit on several occasions this season when he sees the opposing infielders playing too deep.


"Nick plays the game at a very high level and is always looking for ways to beat you," said Skole. "This mentality makes him one step ahead of his opponent. I don't have to say too much to Nick about how to play the game, he is a very intelligent player. He has played a lot of baseball in his career and it shows on a daily basis."


Nick has also shown the ability to make tremendous defensive plays, teaming up with fellow newcomer Chuck Hargis (Powell, Tenn.) in the middle infield to form one of the best double-play combos the Bucs have had in recent memory.


"Chuck and Nick have been a phenomenal combination this season," said Skole. "I couldn't be more pleased. They have really played well together and are getting better and better every time they step on the field. They have very similar personalities on the field and they each have those high expectations to perform at a very high level. Much of our success this season is directly related to the quality of play by these two guys."


"We have been learning on the fly, but over the last couple of weeks, we have hit our stride," commented Crowe. "We have turned a lot of double-plays, and we are very comfortable out there together. It is great to be out there with someone you are good friends with, I feel more comfortable out there with him than anybody I have ever played with. It is great to have a shortstop that good."


Crowe transferred to ETSU for his senior season after playing his first three seasons at the University of Tennessee. He batted a combined .299 over his three years with six home runs, 78 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 29 stolen bases.


East Tennessee State played Nick's former team on Mar. 23 as Tennessee defeated ETSU in a 15-12 thriller. Nick got the Bucs going early, hitting a leadoff double down the right-field line and later scored to give ETSU the lead. The Bucs were scheduled to play the Volunteers again Tuesday from Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., but the game was postponed due to inclement weather.


A Johnson City native, Nick attended Science Hill High School where he played on a state championship squad in 1999 and two conference championship teams. Crowe was a three-time all-state, all-region and all-conference selection for the Hilltoppers. Nick also played on the 2001 USA Junior National team that won the silver medal at the Pan-American Tournament in Cuba.


As a player that enjoyed tremendous success in Johnson City as a high-school player and for three seasons at a major collegiate program, transferring back home to ETSU could have brought some tremendous pressure to Crowe.


"There is no doubt that the pressure has been enormous, almost unfair to an extent," said Skole. "I have felt for him at times, but Nick has handled it very well. There have been times during the season that the pressure on him was just unbelievable, but he has handled himself and everything that comes with it so well. I think the main reason Nick has handled this intense pressure is because of the pressure he puts on himself to perform at a high level. He expects himself to be successful every time he steps on the field." 


"I feel almost like the pressure is off of me now," said Crowe. "I am just here to have fun for one last year, and play with some guys that I grew up playing with. So far it has been amazing."


Also an excellent student, Nick was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll following each of the last two seasons and was a second-team CoSIDA Academic All-District selection following his sophomore year at Tennessee.   


As the Bucs charge toward the SoCon Tournament in Charleston, S.C., May 25-28 from Charleston, S.C., the Bucs will count on Crowe in the pursuit of the team's first conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth since 1981.


"Over the rest of the season, we would like to improve, get as many wins as we can to get a higher seed in the conference tournament, and go out there and surprise some people," said Crowe.


The Bucs return to action on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against Tennessee Tech from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn. before hosting SoCon rival Wofford in a three-game series this weekend.


By Matthew Snellings

ETSU Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director