Elon University baseball coach Mike Kennedy noticed something interesting when comparing junior utility man Nick Zammarelli’s stats from his freshman and sophomore years.
They were eerily similar.
He batted .284 his freshman year and .288 last year. He had 10 doubles last year and nine the year before. The only stark differences came in home runs (one in 2014, seven in 2015) and RBIs (22 and 50).
After a standout summer in the highly regarded Cape Cod League, it’s time for that to change. It’s Zammarelli’s year to break out and solidify himself not only as the best player on Elon’s roster, but one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
His role won’t be in question — he’ll be an everyday starter and batting in the middle of the order. His position might fluctuate, though, between the outfield and third base.
“I think it’s my year,” Zammarelli said. “I feel good, especially coming off last summer in the Cape. I had a good fall. I feel healthy. I feel strong. I’m hoping it is my year.”
His summer play hasn’t gone unnoticed. Playing for the Orleans Firebirds, Zammarelli hit a modest .226 with five doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI playing in what’s viewed as the best collegiate summer baseball league on the East Coast, if not the entire country.
That earned him a spot in the league’s All-Star Game.
Zammarelli’s proved he can hit both for power and in timely situations with those RBI and home run tallies. To bolster his status as an MLB prospect — he was drafted out of high school in the 28th round by the Boston Red Sox — it’s the batting average hurdle he needs to clear.
“The challenge with him, for me, is the average portion of it and continuing to drive in runs but getting better pitches across the board to raise that number up,” Kennedy said. “In terms of being a better hitter average-wise, it should be a big year for him ... The challenge will be for him to mentally take that same approach in the games. If he does that, there’s no reason he can’t hit well over .300 and drive in a lot of runs for us.”
Zammarelli said he wants to be a leader and is striving to make himself approachable to the newcomers. That’s vital, considering the Phoenix welcomes nine freshmen and seven transfers this season.
With that, he’s also tasked with helping change the team’s attitude. Kennedy wasn’t thrilled with it last year, especially down the stretch as injuries and close losses left a feeling that Elon could’ve achieved more.
From the sense around the team now, days before the season starts, it seems as if considerable progress has been made in that category. Now, it’s up to players like Zammarelli to ensure it stays that way.
He called last year’s team, “for lack of a better word, selfish,” but said this club is more team-oriented. That’s illustrated in his personal goals for the year, too.
“Personally, just help the team win,” he said. “Help them get to a Super Regional for the first time in school history. If we do that, I did my job.”
That’s no easy job, but leave it to Zammarelli with tasking himself to one of that caliber.
It’s his time. Don’t be surprised if he achieves it, and don’t be surprised if he’s not here next year.