Staying close to home

BRYANT – Former Bryant Hornet dual-threat player Tyler Nelson isn’t taking his skills far from home when he goes to the next level. Nelson signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Arkansas Baptist Buffaloes in Little Rock in front of friends and family at the Bryant High School baseball office on Tuesday.

“He’s done a remarkable job the last three years for us,” Bryant Coach Kirk Bock said. “He really came on last year as a junior in the middle infield and on the bump (mound). This year, he did a tremendous job playing in the middle and also playing center field for us. He was one of those guys we could slide around and stay just as strong when we brought somebody out.”

“Offensively, he really came on this year. He’s certainly a big reason why we won a state championship.”

The Hornets went 25-7 this past year in winning their second state title in the last three years. Nelson was a big part of that as he went 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA on the mound, striking out 49 in 49.1 innings. At the plate, Nelson hit for a .320 average with one home run, three triples, 10 doubles and 14 stolen bases (14-16). Though his .320 average was very good, his knack of getting on base set him apart as he had a .474 on-base percentage, getting on base nearly half of his plate appearances. He added 24 runs, 25 RBIs, walked 25 times and reached base being hit by a pitch five times.

“I’m excited. I’m ready, I’m ready for it,” Nelson said eager to get his college baseball career started.

Nelson had nine multi-hit games and had a seven-game hit streak from March 22 - April 6 where he hit .520 (13 for 25) with four doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.

Bock said Nelson received Division II and junior college offers, and said going the “JUCO” route was a good fit for him and his best avenue to continue his career to play Division I baseball.

“JUCO is a good route for him because I think his best years are in front of him,” Bock said. “I think he needs to play every day right now and he’ll be able to at JUCO. Then he’ll come out and I believe he’ll go to a Division I school and be able to contribute immediately as a junior.”

Nelson will probably pitch and play in the field for the Buffaloes, which are part of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

“He’s going to be a dual guy,” Bock said. “He was 86-88 (mph) on the bump when he was on. He’s certainly got that in him. But he’s also going to be a position player and hitter.”

Arkansas Baptist went 21-29 this past year and is in Region II, which included colleges in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“I wanted to go JUCO so I could have more decisions next year,” Nelson said. “It’s close. I don’t have to drive too far to get there.”