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Liegi walks on, impresses out of baseball’s bullpen

Nick Liegi wasn’t recruited to play for Binghamton’s baseball team — he wasn’t even on its radar.

“I didn’t know much about Nick entering into the fall tryout … only what his high school coach told one of my assistant coaches,” BU head coach Tim Sinicki said.

But Liegi knew he wanted to continue playing the game after high school, so he gave Sinicki a call over the summer.

“He responded and gave me times for a meet up, and practices in the fall,” Liegi said. “And so I started showing up to those throughout the fall.”

“What Nick did during the fall season was very impressive, and I felt he needed and deserved to be part of our program,” Sinicki said.

Flash-forward a few months: Liegi owns a 1.72 ERA in 15.2 innings and pitched three shutout innings to earn the win in the Bearcats’ 4-3 victory over Hartford last weekend.

Liegi’s success is rare for a walk-on, in that BU typically doesn’t carry many non-scholarship players. Traditionally, the Bearcats don’t even have a yearly walk-on tryout.

“This past year was an exception,” Sinicki said. “A couple of our returning pitchers were coming off injuries and one of our incoming freshmen was coming in with an injury so we were looking to add a walk-on pitcher if we felt there was a good candidate … That is when we found Nick.”

Sinicki didn’t hunt Liegi like a prized recruit — he stumbled upon him like a diamond in the rough. For a BU bullpen that’s been shaky the past couple of seasons, Liegi has shined especially bright.

“His numbers and effectiveness are impressive for both a walk-on or recruited player,” Sinicki said.

Liegi’s fastball tops out at 81 mph. While he doesn’t necessarily have a go-to pitch, Liegi mixes three pitches into his repertoire and throws whatever is working for him during any given outing. As for his approach on the mound, Liegi likes to keep things simple.

“I always just try and stay focused,” Liegi said. “Always being ready to go in. Work well with the catcher, be in sync with him. Make the most of every opportunity and practice hard every day.”

Liegi, who went to Sachem East High School in Suffolk County on Long Island, first picked up a glove when he was 10 years old, and played throughout middle and high school. He wasn’t promised a spot on a college team, but the itch to toe the rubber didn’t end for him when high school did.

“I really wanted to continue playing, and playing D-1 baseball has been a dream,” Liegi said.

As for his goals down the road, Liegi just wants “to get as much playing time as possible.” He has flashed sparks of dominance in a small sample size this season, and Sinicki foresees Liegi continuing to be the reliable arm he’s been looking for in his bullpen.

“All I know is, as long as Nick continues to buy into what we do here within our baseball program there is no reason he cannot continue to be successful,” Sinicki said.

As good as Liegi has been in the opportunities he’s had as a freshman, and for as good as he may be in the future, he’ll still carry the label of “walk-on” around with him for as long as he’s wearing the green and white. That alone, according to Liegi, is enough to continue to drive him to be the best pitcher he can be.

“I was not recruited by anyone else,” Liegi said. “I guess you could say I slipped through the cracks. I don’t have anyone specific to prove wrong but I always play with a chip on my shoulder because I wasn’t recruited by anyone.”

The Bearcats will return to action at Varsity Field this weekend with a three-game series against UMass Lowell. First pitch of Saturday’s doubleheader is set for noon. The series will conclude at 1 p.m. Sunday.