By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Nick Savoie really blossomed as a baseball player during his final two years at East Lincoln.
He hopes to do the same at Carson-Newman University.
The lone senior on this year’s Mustangs squad recently signed his national letter of intent to play for the Division II Eagles.
Savoie said his main goal during his time at the Jefferson City, Tenn., school is to simply improve.
“It’s like a dream come to life,” Savoie said. “(I) really (want) to continue to improve, and to try and excel in college like I did here.”
Over the course of three varsity seasons the right-hander won 17 games, and went 7-3 with a save and a 1.53 ERA this year.
Savoie, who said he was also recruited by fellow South Atlantic Conference school Newberry College, Methodist University and Limestone College, said the Eagles will use him as a pitcher, but he can his as well.
He batted .325 this year and drove in 21 runs, and as the only senior on East Lincoln’s roster, helped it to a tie for second in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference.
This year, Savoie had no choice but to be the Mustangs’ leader. Next school year, he’ll be an understudy to Carson-Newman’s upperclassmen.
“Being able to learn a lot is a big thing. That’s going to be the most important thing my freshman year,” Savoie said. “That’s what all the guys looked up to me this year for.”
The thing that set the Eagles apart from other schools was their camaraderie in the dugout, Savoie said.
“A lot of other college teams just sit there and play baseball, but Carson-Newman was really upbeat,” he said. “You could tell what team wanted it more.”
East Lincoln finished 13-14 overall, 10-4 in league play, and will have a large senior class next season.
Savoie hopes that next year’s team mimics the 2012 team his sophomore year –– loaded with seniors, went 22-5 and reached the third round of the state 2A playoffs.
He called this year’s second round exit at Sylva Smoky Mountain “disappointing” –– the Mustangs led 7-1 entering the bottom of the seventh but lost 8-7 –– and Savoie made it a point to make sure the team rebounded after it had to forfeit a pair of non-conference wins in early March.
East Lincoln was 1-5 at that point, but finished the season by winning 12 of its last 21 games.
Being the lone senior was “challenging,” Savoie said, but he knew if the Mustangs were to be competitive he had no choice but to lead.
Next year, he can get back to learning from the older guys.
“I like to be the sit-back guy. With a young team you had to step up and take a big leadership role,” he said. “I had to step up and be that guy.”