CONYERS -- Nolan Woodward was content on ending his baseball career in the best way possible after being the pitcher of record in Heritage’s first-ever state championship victory.
A 7-inning, 4-run masterpiece propelled the Patriots to an 11-4 Game 3 win over Pope, marking Woodward’s sixth victory of the season and second of the playoffs. With trophy in hand, Woodward thought that was the last time he would ever step out onto a mound in competitive baseball.
“I kind of had the mindset of going somewhere just to focus on education,” Woodward said.
But in the days that followed, it didn’t take long before several schools came calling. One that jumped to the top of Woodward’s list was Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, an NAIA program 72 miles northwest of Conyers.
“It really started right after we won the state championship,” Woodward said. “I got excited and it caught me off guard just a little bit. After we won the state championship, they reached out and wanted me to come up to a tryout/visit.”
Still reeling from the Patriots’ historic playoff run, Woodward was soon on campus showcasing what helped him succeed at the high school level.
“I threw a short, 20-pitch bullpen,” Woodward said. “Before that, they took me on a visit which was really nice. They brought me to the baseball field and threw a little bit. Based on the visit, it felt very welcoming and the campus was really nice. It just felt like a good fit.”
Woodward finished his senior season with a 6-1 record and a 2.83 ERA in 47 innings pitched. His great end to the season, one that featured wins against both Effingham County in the 6A semifinals and Pope in the finals, helped him land this opportunity, he said.
“I felt like it helped a lot,” Woodward said. “They talked to me a little bit while I was there and told me that they want to work with me throughout the season and see if I can earn that playing time. My goals are to get bigger and stronger and to be able to become a starting pitcher there.”
Woodward thanked his teammates and coaching staff at Heritage for also playing a large role in helping him land this opportunity.
“Honestly, my pitching performances weren’t the greatest this season, but having the team behind me and helping out with run support and defense helped a lot,” Woodward said. “It made my performances that much better.”
Not known for his velocity on the mound, the crafty left-hander said working on throwing the ball harder is atop his to-do list once arriving on campus.
“Velocity is a big thing that I can improve on,” Woodward said. “Just getting stronger and being able to work on it on a day-to-day basis with the coaches there.”
Woodward joins his older brother, Nick, who played college baseball at Andrew College.
“It’s awesome,” Woodward said. “This is a dream that I’ve always had. With the little bit that I know, they’re a pretty good team. I’ve known that they’ve had a good history and I’m just looking forward to helping out.”