The exploits of 2010 Oakdale High graduate Nick Vander Tuig will already live on in the enchanted tales of baseball glory, but the 22-year-old right-handed pitcher is just getting started.
Vander Tuig, fresh off a sixth-round selection in the 2013Major League Baseball First-Year-Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants, capped his sterling collegiate career with the pinnacle honor for any pitcher on June 25.
The Mustang alumni tossed eight scoreless innings with just five hits allowed to lift UCLA to an 8-0 victory over Mississippi State in the second game of a best-of-three series for the CWS crown. Since UCLA won the first game, Vander Tuig’s gem on the biggest stage of college baseball granted the Bruins their first NCAA Championship on the dusty diamond.
“We worked extremely hard all season and they believed in each other and that's what great teams do,” UCLA head coach John Savage said on the UCLA website. “We have to congratulate a great Mississippi State team. They had a great year. I just think it was one of those situations where it was our time. Nick threw the ball great for eight innings and kept them off balance and then (David) Berg did his job.”
Berg pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the deal, but Vander Tuig’s heroic heaves of the stitched oval put Mississippi State well out of reach.
It was Vander Tuig’s 14th win of the season and capped a dazzling 2.16 Earned Run Average across 19 starts. He allowed just one run in seven innings of work to best North Carolina State in the CWS on June 18, and tossed 6.1 scoreless innings to clinch a 3-0 win over Cal State Fullerton on June 8 in the Super Regionals. That’s just one run allowed in the last and biggest 21.1-innings of Vander Tuig’s life.
“This whole team is so close and I can't really explain how happy I am,” Vander Tuig said on the team website. “Our defense has been great all year and our pitching staff has a lot of heart. We have each other's back. I can't be more proud of this team. I'm going to miss them.”
Vander Tuig told The Leader he was unsure of his designation in the Giants minor-league system, but it stands to reason that his accurate arm will have increased value going forward, after his postseason jaunt.
He won a section title with Oakdale in 2008, fell short of the SJS banner his junior year alongside college pitcher Justin Jones, then missed his senior year to recover from Tommy John surgery.
It’s been a long and arduous journey, but Nick Vander Tuig is just getting started.