In one summer, Nick Tropeano came to realize that he didn’t have to nibble at the corners. He didn’t have to throw a first-pitch fastball but could choose anything from his arsenal in any order. He didn’t have to back down from anyone. His stuff was that good.
Tropeano, a sophomore at Stony Brook University, had enjoyed an excellent freshman season last spring, leading the team with five wins and tossing four complete games. The real jump came during the summer with Hamptons Collegiate Baseball’s Riverhead Tomcats. His numbers landed him the pitching triple crown, first in the ACBL in wins (7), strikeouts (77) and earned run average (1.61). Tropeano earned the victory as the Kaiser Division’s All-Star Game starter in July and was ultimately named the league’s Pitcher of the Year.
Once unclear, the strategy crystallized during the summer: go on the attack.
“In the summer, I wanted to go out and do my best and throw what I have,” Tropeano said. “I wasn’t going to be scared. I wanted to throw my best pitches and see if they could hit it. I pretty much had a new mentality and I was working hitters backward, attacking hitters, throwing strikes and getting ahead.”
What helped last summer was that he was able to throw to his college catcher, Justin Echevarria,who is a teammate at Stony Brook. In addition to throwing his four-seam and two-seam fastballs in and out, he worked on throwing his slurve to lefties and his change-up in on right-handers. As a freshman, he’d almost exclusively thrown his change to lefties and slurve to righties, so he anticipates he’ll keep batters off balance with the added dimension in his sophomore campaign.
“My coaches have said that my demeanor on the mound is much different,” Tropeano said. “I have much more confidence and that’s very key to have as a pitcher.” He’s hoping that the renewed faith in his repertoire will carry over to this spring when the Seawolves, third in the America East Conference last year, will once again count on him to deliver as a weekend starter. He went 5-1 with a 5.12 ERA as a freshman en route to a spot on the America East All-Rookie Team. His conquests included a four-hit shutout of New York Tech and a season-high eight Ks in beating conference runner-up Albany.
Last spring and summer seasons drew the attention of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Tropeano will pitch for the Cotuit Kettleers along with, among others, right-handers Gerrit Cole (UCLA) and Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt), both of whom are considered high MLB draft picks in 2011 Tropeano’s goals are the same as his highly touted teammates, to pitch in the big leagues, and it’s been that way since he first picked up a baseball at age four. At West Islip High, Tropeano and the Lions won the Suffolk County Class AA championship his senior year, and he earned All-County, All-Long Island and third team All-State accolades. His teammates on that squad included another Seawolf standout, Pat Cantwell, as well as Rob Faulkner (Dowling) and Kyle Gelling (George Washington).
He has two more seasons and the Cape campaign before he becomes draft eligible, and one source, Perfect Game, has pegged him as a mid-round draft pick (rounds 11-25). Tropeano admitted he is by no means a finished product, after all, it’s baseball, and no one is. However, his season in the Hamptons inched him closer to where he wants to be.
“I definitely have a better feel for how hitters are at the college level,” Tropeano said. “I feel like I can always get better, but I feel like I’m getting there. I just need to tweak a few things and keep working hard.”