Campbell University: Outfielder; led team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI; North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association First Team; Big South All-Tournament team
Casa Grande: Empire Large-School Male Athlete of the Year; All-Empire in baseball, basketball and football; Cal-Hi Sports Division II Male Athlete of the Year
By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Baseball has taken Matt Nadolski from coast to coast with the resilient slugger finding a home at a small college that reached the NCAA big time.
Healthy again, the former Empire great helped lead Campbell University (North Carolina) to the NCAA Division I postseason, and then helped the program record its first victory in a national tournament.
“It was awesome, being able to win a game that was big for the program,” Nadolski said. “It was a good group of guys. Coming from a small school and doing what we did was great. People know who we are now.”
The memorable season included the second most wins in Campbell history and a Big South Conference tournament title.
Nadolski led Campbell in hits, RBI, home runs, doubles, extra base hits and slugging percentage. Finishing the season on a 13-game hitting streak, Nadolski made the Big South All-Tournament team and the North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association First Team.
The successful season was a result of Nadolski’s determination to stay in the game.
A three-sport star out of Casa Grande, he first played baseball at San Diego State. Then he sat out a season before transferring to Santa Rosa Junior College, where Nadolski regained the attention of NCAA programs. Nadolski credited SRJC coach Damon Neidlinger with taking him to the next level.
“He prepares the guys that come in well enough that when they go to NCAA Division I, they’re ready to perform,” Nadolski said. “You just become more mature, being able to deal with stuff. He definitely challenges you to be a better person, to be a better player.”
Campbell offered an opportunity to play in a competitive conference in the collegiate baseball hotbed of the South.
“At first I was a little shell-shocked. You take a chance on going out there and going to a different culture that you’re not used to,” Nadolski said. “But I ended up somewhere good where I got to play baseball and enjoyed myself.”
Overcoming a hand injury his junior campaign, Nadolski came into his senior season hungry to compete. A summer in the Coastal Plain League against top college players helped prepare Nadolski for his breakout season.
“I knew that I worked hard and believed in myself,” he said.
After pacing Campbell’s offense all season, Nadolski stayed hot in the postseason.
After falling in the conference tournament opener, Campbell won five straight to capture the crown, the program’s first since 1990. Nadolski made the all-tournament team.
The season got even better. Campbell defeated Old Dominion for the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win before being eliminated in the regional at South Carolina. Nadolski had four hits in three games.
“Making the tournament, that’s what you dream about,” Nadolski said. “You set your goals to get there, but once you’re there it’s kind of a surreal feeling. A lot of guys don’t get that opportunity.”
Going to Campbell also allowed Nadolski to complete his degree in exercise sports science.
Still, he has not given up hope of playing professional baseball.
“I’m still going to give it a shot,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.