By Nick Barene, Sports Writer
When junior Collin Nilson hits the ball, he hits it hard. Really hard. The pitcher and outfielder is the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team’s leader in home runs this season, and has been known to crush balls out to more than 400 feet.
This season, the Lutes are 15-9 overall and 8-3 in the Northwest Conference, aided heavily by Nilson. He has already crushed three home runs, batted in 13 runs, hit seven doubles and has racked up 35 total bases. He also boasts the second-most at bats on the team with 76, a .250 batting average and a whopping .461 slugging percentage.
At 6-feet-3-inches and weighing 200 pounds, Nilson is an imposing figure. With the effortless nature of his swing, one would think that Nilson has been hitting dingers since he was old enough to take the field.
But it hasn’t always been so easy.
“I actually had never hit a home run until I came to college,” Nilson said. “I always hit the ball hard, but never hit any homeruns.”
It wasn’t until last season he hit his first round-tripper and led the team with three homeruns. The difference, Nilson said, hasn’t come through improving his swing.
“When I came to college I weighed about 170, and now I weigh about 200. So hitting the weight room was really what did it,” Nilson said.
The added muscle was just what Nilson needed to transform him into the real power threat that he is today. One of his bombs traveled well past 400 feet.
“I hit one the other day that was 375 feet to the wall, and I heard it went about another 80 feet,” Nilson said.
To put the right-hander’s power into perspective, center field at Seattle’s Safeco Field is 401 feet.
Nilson has also pitched 10 innings for the Lutes this year with a 1-1 record and recorded eight strikeouts. Nilson is a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team, whether it’s taking the mound or taking an opposing pitcher yard.
But Collin isn’t worrying as much about blasting the ball as he is about winning. The team is in second place in the NWC and is battling Linfield, last year’s NCAA Div. III National Champion, for the top spot in the conference.
“We feel good,” Nilson said. “It was good to get some runs this weekend. I feel like I’m swinging the bat well, and we feel good about where we are as a team.”