The pitcher winds up and delivers home. As the ball smacks the catcher’s mitt, Nick Regnier is barreling down to second base.
To prevent the junior center fielder from stealing, the catcher needs to make a perfect throw in a split second.
Only two have stopped him this year.
Regnier has 22 stolen bases this season, putting him in the top 10 in the nation coming into this week, the accomplishment that was news to him.
Regnier said he didn’t know when asked how many bases he has stolen or where he ranks in the nation.
What he does know, is when to steal a base.
“You’ve got to take in consideration the situation of the game,” Regnier said. “You have to gauge the pitcher and how fast he is to home, his pick-off move, and then you just try to steal the base. Anytime I can, I go.”
A player with Regnier’s skill set can drive a pitcher crazy. When he’s on first, the pitcher’s mind goes into frenzy.
For one, he has to keep an eye on him while his brother, sophomore outfielder Logan Regnier, is at the plate. Logan brings his team-leading .338 batting average to the equation.
“Anytime the opponent knows you have a guy who can run, it makes them take notice,” said head coach Steve Jaksa, who pitched at CMU from 1977-79. “He gets on first, (and) now the pitcher is thinking about him and not the hitter, which helps us at the plate. He gets down in the count; now he’s focusing on the batter and forgets about him on first.”
Jaksa doesn’t need to tell Nick when to steal; he has the green light to go whenever he feels fit.
Jaksa trusts the older Regnier to make the 90-foot dash on his own free will – a trust which only came after the two built a strong repertoire with one another.
“Nick knows how to read a pitcher and get a good jump,” Jaksa said. “That’s a continued working relationship between him and the coaches to get him to learn. It’s not just a snap of the finger and you’re allowed to do that. We work on it in the fall and in the previous season and we’re on the same page.”
Nick can change a game at the snap of a finger. On the first movement of the pitcher, Nick snaps to advance into scoring position.
That way, a simple single into the outfield scores a run and the game changes in an instant.
“Anytime you can take a base and get a runner in scoring position is huge,” Nick said. “We’ve got some guys in the middle of the order who can drive us in and that’s huge.”
He might not know it, but he’s chasing down the record books with each base he swipes.
With 22 steals this season, he is eight shy of tying Denny McNamara, who stole 20 in 1989. He has 51 stolen bases in his three seasons, nine away from Ed Papes, who stole 60 from 1968-70.
“I’m not really thinking about that right now,” Nick said. “If I got that, looking back on it would be a nice accomplishment.”