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Showcase | Story | 4/30/2019

Gottilla spins it at Spring Top

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Nick Gottilla (Perfect Game)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The rain, freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced batting practice sessions at the 17th annual Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcase indoors on Saturday finally relented – for the most part, anyway – on Sunday.

Players wore long sleeves and spectators huddled underneath heavy coats and blankets to guard against a cold wind, but everyone gathered at Mount Mercy University Field and Perfect Game Field-Veterans Memorial Stadium, ready to play the showcases’ four, 14-inning games.

Mixing in among the hearty souls at MMU was a class of 2019 left-hander who has done a lot of winning over the last two years as a member of the Davenport (Iowa) Assumption High School baseball team. Nick Gottilla is a senior at Assumption who has climbed PG’s prospect rankings and has signed a letter-of-intent with UCF in Orlando, Fla.

“I know that the draft is coming up soon, so the more exposure I can get the better,” Gottilla told PG when asked why he decided to make the drive west to pitch three innings on a cold afternoon in late April. “I definitely prefer to pitch when it’s nice out but this is just another thing that you’ve got to adapt to. You can’t control the weather; you’ve just got to do what you can.

“I really don’t treat this any differently than a high school game,” he added. “I just go out there and I try to get every (batter) out.”

Gottilla did all he could and more during his three innings of work, as noted in a PG scout blog that was posted Sunday: (Gottilla) consistently worked ahead of hitters early in the count to each edge of the plate …. Flashed tight, late-breaking spin with a curveball in the low 70’s … effectively kept hitters off balance and induced soft, weak contact.

Buoyed by outings like this one, the 6-foot, 170-pound Gottilla came into the Spring Top ranked No. 485 overall nationally in the 2019 class, and No. 3 in Iowa (No. 1 left-hander). He’s gotten better with age and in addition to the UCF opportunity that awaits, he has also allowed himself to take measure of the upcoming MLB June Amateur Draft.

“I’ve talked to some scouts and obviously I’ll have to make a decision that’s smart and not just take whatever comes to me,” Gottilla told PG. “It’s something that I’ll just have to weigh-out and think about what’s best for me going forward.”

One thing that is undeniable is that Gottilla is a winner. He combined for 15 starts for the Assumption Knights during his sophomore and junior summer seasons, finishing 7-1 with a 1.70 ERA in 2017 and 6-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 2018; he struck out 56 in 37 innings two seasons ago and 91 in 47 innings in 2018.

It probably should be noted at this point that Assumption won Iowa Class 3A state championships each of those past two seasons, finishing 41-5 in 2017 and 34-10 last year.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Gottilla said of the 2018 campaign. “About halfway through the season I think people were doubting us and that got into our heads a little bit.”

He was speaking of a seven-day stretch in late June when the Knights lost four of five games to Class 4A (big school) foes Johnston, Davenport Central and Eldridge North Scott on the heels of an eight-game winning streak. The players knew something had to change if the season was to be saved, so they instituted that change and went 13-1 to close out the season and the championship.

Gottilla had turned in a Rawlings Top Prospect List performance at the PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase held at Perfect Game Headquarters in March 2018, which served as a bit of a springboard into his 2018 high school season.

When that season ended in late July, Gottilla decided he needed to stay active in the fall and started looking for opportunities on PG’s schedule. Thanks to a little networking, he managed to get in contact with Ron Slusher from the storied Ohio Warhawks organization, and a plan was hatched:

Slusher put him on the roster of the Ohio Warhawks/643 DP Cougars squad that would play at the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October.

The experience was an unqualified success. Performing in an arena teaming with pro scouts and college recruiters, Gottilla pitched two hitless, shutout innings, striking out five without a walk. His fastball sat 86-88 mph during the outing and his 74 mph curveball kept the would-be hitters out of sync.

“It was nuts down there but I met so many great guys just from being there,” he said. “The whole experience – I was kind of in awe at first because I’m not used to that playing in Iowa. But it was really fun and I’m really happy I did it.”

Gottilla got a jump on this year’s prep season by pitching as often as he was able in the PG Spring League, a season that was plagued by rotten weather from start to finish. But he was able to get out on the mound twice to work a combined five innings; he didn’t allow any runs on two hits while striking out 11 and walking five in cold, wet and windy conditions.

“For me, personally, when I go out for my first game (this high school season), I want to be in mid-season form,” Gottilla said. “That was really the only way that I could do that, and I think it’s helped me out a lot to this point.”

When Gottilla looks back on his career at Assumption, he remembers that during his freshman year people would tell him he a chance to be pretty good, but no one really expected to see a D-I caliber pitcher to emerge and develop. He simply took it upon himself to do the things he and the coaching staff at Assumption – including head coach Greg Thissen – believed would make him the best pitcher he could possibly be.

“Just to see my progress over the last three or four years, I forget to look back on it sometimes but I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “To be the best, you’ve got to play with or against the best. When you’re playing someone who is equally as good as you or better, it brings that extra motivation, it brings that extra fight, and that helps out a lot; I feel like I’m more alert.

When it came time to pick a school at which to continue his athletic and academic pursuits, Gottilla looked south right from the get-go. He wanted to play his college baseball in a warm-weather state and he wasn’t going to limit his options to a particular league, noting correctly that there is great competition to be had all over the south.

“Out of all the schools that I was talking to, (UCF) was always straight forward with me and I just loved it down there; I loved the coaches, I loved the guys when I went on my visit,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good time and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Assumption Knights will be a couple of weeks into their 2019 summer season when the MLB Amateur Draft begins on June 3. Gottilla can’t be blamed for keeping track of the first few days of the draft but he’s more excited about chasing a third straight state championship banner with his teammates in June and July.

Led by Gottilla, it would appear they have the pitching to achieve greatness once again. Senior Julien Broderson, a three-time Iowa state wrestling champion, was 8-0 with a 1.03 ERA last season and he and seniors Adam Quested and Brandon Schlichting were a combined 20-2 as juniors in 2018.

Assumption sophomore Tyler Maro, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound right-hander, joined Gottilla at the PG Spring Top this weekend, and also pitched in the Iowa Spring League.

Despite the obstacles presented by the weather, the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase came out on top. It was probably the last PG go-around for most of the seniors in attendance, but Gottilla indicated he might be back in town for the PG National Pre-Draft Showcase at MMU on May 12. Hopefully, with a little luck, heavy coats and blankets will be optional.

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