As a sophomore, Nick Motsinger showed he could play varsity baseball in the Greater Spokane League.
This year, he’s showing just how complete a player he can be.
“Nick came up and led our infield in hitting as a sophomore,” University High School baseball coach Scott Sutherland said. “That was quite an accomplishment. This year he’s leading off for us and hitting well over .400. I tell you what, I’m just glad that I’m going to have him for another year.”
“Last year was a really good year for me,” the junior explained. “Things were really loose and there were no real expectations on me. I got some great exposure to what it takes to be successful at this level. I got to see what the pitching was like and to compete against some of the best team around the area.
“This year I’m focused on going out there and having an even better year.”
A year ago Motsinger played second base for the Titans, who had All-GSL first-teamer Jacob Olsufka at shortstop, and helped the team win 22 of 26 games. That team lost to Richland in the state quarterfinals. Motsinger hit .402 a year ago, nine points better than Olsufka, and earned second-team All-GSL honors.
“Second base isn’t really my natural position, so it took some getting used to,” he said. “I’ve always played shortstop, so there really isn’t much of a transition for me.”
Motsinger wasn’t about to rest his game on the laurels he won a year ago.
“Nick has worked harder than anyone else over the winter to make himself better,” Sutherland said.
“I really want to see just how far I can go in this game,” Motsinger said. “I spent about six months in a really good training program and I worked on improving my strength and my quickness.
“I spent a lot of time in the batting cage during our open gym program. And I went to a couple baseball camps to help make myself better. I haven’t really changed my approach at the plate, but I do feel like I’m quicker and stronger at the plate.
“Even throwing the ball – it feels like I am throwing it with better velocity.”
Entrenched as the Titans’ leadoff hitter, Motsinger has found any number of ways to help his team.
“I like to get on base and see if I can make things happen,” he said. “When you’re leading off, there’s always the chance to drop down a drag bunt and get yourself on base. Once you get on, you can steal a base and put some pressure on a defense.”
“Nick isn’t a real burner on the bases, and we’ve had a few of those,” Sutherland said. “But he’s got very good speed and I think he reads pitchers very well. He doesn’t have the green light to run whenever he wants – no one does this year. But he can definitely steal second and third base in the right situations.”
That quickness helps Motsinger add range to the shortstop position.
“He gets to balls that most other shortstops don’t get to,” Sutherland said. “When you do that, sometimes your fielding percentage suffers.”
“What gets me into trouble is when I try to rush things,” Motsinger said. “I think that if I just try to make the play that I can cut down on the errors and that’s what I’ve been really working on.”
The Titans went into a two-game series with league-leading Mt. Spokane knowing that their fate is in their own hands.
“We know that, if we can keep winning games, we’re going to get into the playoffs and, hopefully, stay out of those loser-out first-round games,” Sutherland said. “That means finishing in one of the top three spots. Five teams make it in, but the bottom two have to play loser-out games.”
The Titans entered that series after a sweep of North Central, their second series sweep of the season. They split two games with Ferris, Lewis and Clark, East Valley and Central Valley.
“Basically, I’ve told them to pretend that every team we play is wearing light blue,” Sutherland said. “Playing Central Valley just seems to bring out the best in us.
“We’re winning games with our pitching and our defense. We don’t have the high-powered offense that we’ve had before and we’ve struggled hitting the ball at times.”
“We know we have a challenge ahead of us,” Motsinger said. “But we also know that if we play like we know we can play, we can compete with anyone.”