We live in the age of sports specialization, in which kids are told – usually by overzealous parents or coaches – at an early age that the only way to become an elite athlete is to play one sport and focus all your energy on improving.
Washington & Jefferson College senior pitcher Eddie Nogay, however, is proof that being a multi-sport athlete in high school can pay huge dividends.
A senior right-handed pitcher for the Presidents, Nogay was a standout athlete at Weirton Madonna High School in West Virginia. When the weather changed seasons, Nogay changed uniforms. He was a three-sport athlete who did what was required to be successful. He cut weight in the winter, developed arm strength in the spring, lifted weights and worked on his foot speed during the summer, all while changing teams and sports.
“I learned the mental toughness of a three-sport athlete,” Nogay said. “I played football. Who wouldn’t want to run onto the field and play football under the lights on a Friday night? I played baseball. In what other sport can you play an intrasquad game in practice with music playing over the loudspeaker? Baseball is a great sport. And I wrestled for 16 years. That one-on-one aspect of wrestling is something I bring to the mound. Dan Gable, the famous wrestler and coach, said that once you’ve wrestled then everything else is easy.
“Being a one-sport athlete in high school can burn out a kid. I liked playing three sports.”
One thing Nogay learned from the changing sports seasons is how to win.
And win again. And again. And again.
At Weirton Madonna, Nogay played on state championship football and baseball teams as a senior. He was the winning pitcher in both the state semifinal and championship.
At W&J, Nogay has become the winningest pitcher in Presidents history and one of the most successful in NCAA Division III.
And he’s made it look easy, proving Gable correct.
Nogay has a career record of 27-2. He has a 5-1 record this season, the lone loss being to Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation. W&J allowed four unearned runs in that game.
The only other blemish on Nogay’s record is a loss, in a relief appearance, as a junior. He had a 12-1 record that season.
W&J has never lost a Presidents’ Athletic Conference game Nogay has started. And he will make what will likely be his final start at Ross Memorial Park this evening (6 p.m.) when top-seeded W&J (27-13) hosts No. 4 Waynesburg (17-23) in the first round of the double-elimination PAC tournament.
No. 2 Thomas More (20-17) plays No. 3 Bethany (19-15) in the tournament opener at 3 p.m. The tournament is scheduled to run through Saturday and the winner will advance to the Division III tournament.
“The four years flew by,” Nogay said Tuesday during a break in W&J’s practice. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I squeezed all the juice out of it. I feel very comfortable in this stadium and I love throwing off that mound.”
Nogay almost didn’t have the chance to throw for W&J. The Presidents tried to recruit both Nogay and his twin brother, Max, who chose to be walk-on at West Virginia, where he has contributed several clutch hits this season for the Mountaineers. Eddie Nogay almost went to John Hopkins, but a last-minute change of plans brought him to Washington.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good in recruiting,” W&J coach Jeff Mountain said. “Eddie has had an outstanding career. He’s a fighter, a competitor.”
Nogay has to be. He was only 155 pounds when he enrolled at W&J and weighs just 172 today. Mountain said Nogay is not a pitcher who would stand out at first glance during a tryout or showcase event. That is, until he starts throwing and sending batters back to the dugout wondering how they made an out so quickly. Nogay follows Mountain’s pitching phiolosophy of working fast, throwing stikes and letting the defense do much of the work.
In four seasons, Nogay has thrown 10 complete games and five shutouts. He has issued only 60 walks in 258 career innings.
Nogay credits both Mountain and former W&J pitcher Dave Trushel for much of his pitching success.
“The two most important things that happened to me after coming to W&J is having Coach Mountain take pitching very seriously,” Nogay said. “His thing is throwing strikes and setting the tempo. He has an aggressive style that I like.
“The second thing is Dave Trushel took me under his wing and showed me how to be a winner, especially in the PAC. Dave had a reputation for success in the PAC, and he showed me how to be a fast-paced pitcher.”
Nogay set W&J’s career wins record last month as the Presidents thumped Geneva. Now, the only goals remaining for Nogay, who is one of 11 seniors on W&J’s roster, are team-oriented.
“The goals are to win a PAC championship, winning a regional championship and making it to the Division III World Series,” he said. “We’ve been putting the building blocks together here. We’ve made it to regionals before and won some games. Those were good things, but we want to win a regional title.”