Long: 'A baseball player in a basketball player's body'
Newport, R.I. — Nolan Long won just about every pitching battle on Monday night with only a few exceptions, including one with his manager.
Still confident and feeling strong despite his rising pitch count, Long tried to talk manager Phil Orbe out of making a change with two outs in the seventh inning of a tight New England Collegiate Baseball League game against Newport at Cardines Field.
Long, a towering 6-foot-10, 235-pound right-hander from Waterford, had just struck out his seventh batter of the game in his best performance this season for the Mystic Schooners.
Then Orbe started walking toward the mound. Long didn't want to leave the game.
"I was confident that I could get the next batter," Long said, "but I had to respect his decision."
Orbe wasn't surprised by Long's reaction.
"That's what you expect," Orbe said. "That's what you want. As I told him, it was more a pitch number than anything else."
Mystic trailed 2-1 when Long left the game. The Schooners eventually tied the score at 2-all on pinch-hitter Brad Zunica's two-out double in the ninth before Newport's Jose Viscaino Jr. answered with a game-winning single in the bottom of the inning.
Long earned a no-decision in the 3-2 loss, allowing just four hits and two runs. He didn't issue a walk. He made only a few mistakes and two went out of the park, as Tanner Donnels and Blaise Salter hit solo home runs in the fifth and seventh, respectively.
Otherwise, Long was nearly perfect.
"Nolan threw great," Orbe said. "I thought he was dominant."
Long had a hint during his warm-ups that he would have a good night. He displayed an electric fast ball and sharp off-speed pitches.
"Right from the bullpen, I knew I had everything," Long said. "A couple off-speed pitches I left over the plate, and in a small park like this, they got just enough. That's going to happen."
It may have been Long's last start before he returns to Wagner College for summer school. He also has summer basketball workouts.
He's coming off an impressive school year during which he played both Division I basketball and baseball.
"I'm staying busy," Long said. "I'm not looking to give up one. I like playing one just as much as the other."
Two-sport standouts run in the Long family, as his father Jesse and uncle Dennis accomplished that feat at the University of Rhode Island and UConn, respectively.
Dennis Long, who watched Nolan grow into a professional pitching prospect, is serving as Mystic's pitching coach. Nolan was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 38th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft but chose to attend Wagner. He went 3-3 with a 2.98 earned run average and allowed opponents to hit just .180 last season.
Dennis remembers watching a 3-year-old Nolan throw a baseball and predicting his nephew would be a great college player one day.
"He was a tall kid for his age in Little League," Dennis said. "I said he was going to be a great college player. He loved baseball. He's a baseball player in a 6-10 basketball player body. That's what he is. He's a great basketball player, but I think baseball is what is in blood.
"… To me, he's exactly where I thought he should be. If you look at him on the whole, he's one of the stronger pitchers around."
Nolan is enjoying working with his uncle and playing for the Schooners, who plan to keep him on the roster for the remainder of the season just in case.
"That's perfect," Nolan said of having his uncle as his pitching coach. "He's been my pitching coach my whole life. He knows what I can and cannot do. He knows what adjustments I need to make. It's been like that since I started playing baseball."
Entering Monday's game, Long had an 0-2 record and 3.86 earned run average, striking out 20 and walking 13 in 14 innings.
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