Pressure? What pressure: “I’ve always said, pressure is opportunity. If in situations you don’t have a lot of pressure, there’s probably not a lot at stake there.”
– Southern Alamance senior pitcher Nathan Teague
By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Southern Alamance pitcher Nathan Teague darted off the mound to snag a batter’s bunt in the air, then fired to first base to double off a runner.
Amid a season with a head-turning strikeout total, that’s what stood out during a recent game for the senior pitcher.
“That was probably the highlight of the night,” he said. “I got to do something athletic and kind of get a little highlight reel, so that was cool.”
Teague has tended to do something remarkable on a regular basis for the Patriots. The right-hander is gaining increasing attention, but he doesn’t want to look one-dimensional. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, he’s not likely to be overlooked.
“Anytime I get to show that, because stereotypically tall, lanky guys aren’t very athletic,” Teague said. “Anytime I get to display that and venture outside of just [being] a pitcher, I love doing that.”
Southern embraces Teague’s dominance from the mound. He has struck out 111 batters in 55 2/3 innings, rolling up a 9-0 record with a 0.50 earned run average. He has allowed 23 hits and walked 11.
“If we get his ‘B’ game, it’s still better than everybody else’s ‘A’ game.” – Southern High School baseball coach Jason Smith
The strikeout total is double from a season ago.
“He has made a jump from last year,” coach Jason Smith said. “If we get his ‘B’ game, it’s still better than everybody else’s ‘A’ game.”
Teague is slated to be on the mound against visiting Durham Jordan in Wednesday night’s DAC-VII Conference Tournament semifinal.
Growing into it
It wasn’t always so overpowering for Teague.
“He was so thin and awkward,” Smith said.
Teague was on the junior varsity in what became an abbreviated freshman season in 2020 because of the pandemic. His fastball topped out at 72 mph.
A year later, he was cranking out pitches at 89 mph. That will get you noticed.
So will his frame. He’s a basketball player, too, leading the Patriots in scoring and rebounding.
“I actually played varsity basketball before I played varsity baseball,” he said. “My jump (in baseball) from freshman to sophomore was astronomical.”
Teague is proud of his time on the basketball court. He played with emotion, just like he’ll demonstrate after a big strikeout on the diamond.
“I’m pretty passionate,” he said. “I turn into a different human out there.”
He signed to play baseball for Vanderbilt – choosing the Commodores ahead of North Carolina, Tennessee and Wake Forest – in November, just before the start of his final basketball season. His current and future coaches understood how important both sports are to him.
“I was recruited with them knowing I play basketball, and they enjoyed it,” Teague said. “They told me they want an athlete first. Basketball forces you to stay athletic. I didn’t play basketball to stay in shape. I played baseball because I love it. One chose me, I didn’t choose the other.”
While baseball is his ticket to college, he’ll remember where he put his basketball sneakers.
“I haven’t had my last dunk,” he said. “I’m definitely going to have to show the kids I’ve still got it one day.”
For now, it’s about firing fastballs and mixing in sliders to keep batters out of sorts.
“He’s always accurate,” Southern catcher Eli Holland said. “He’s very reliable. If he pitches, it’s almost a guaranteed win.”
It’s that level of confidence that Southern Alamance (13-9) has needed this season. The team’s enthusiasm when he’s on the mound goes into another gear.
“He’s full-out,” Smith said. “He’s going to be fiery. We’re going to follow him. He brings so much energy and our kids believe so much with him on the mound.”
There’s no hiding
Like many high-profile high school baseball players, the amateur draft could be enticing should that opportunity develop. Teague’s spring-break outing against South Brunswick, which has likely first-round draft pick Walker Jenkins in the lineup, drew high praise.
Whether he would navigate the draft route in July remains uncertain, he said.
“I’m going to keep praying and put that one in God’s hands,” he said.
In the meantime, the Patriots will put the ball in Teague’s hand as much as possible during the postseason.
Teague said he thrives on that responsibility. With a scholarship to a Southeastern Conference power, he said opponents want to knock him off.
“You hear things,” he said. “I pride myself on tuning everything out there and really being the only voice I do hear. You hear all the time, ‘SEC.’ The pressure that comes with it is something you earn. I’ve always said, pressure is opportunity. If in situations you don’t have a lot of pressure, there’s probably not a lot at stake there.
“When you pride yourself on being one of the best, you have a standard to uphold. They don’t really chirp at people who are bad, so it’s a compliment to your game. It thrives and pushes you.”
So the Patriots hope to enjoy Teague’s presence a while longer this spring.
“We get to see him work,” Smith said. “As good as he is, there’s even more potential in him.”