CUMBERLAND — Wednesday, June 6 will be a date not soon forgotten by Bryce Nightengale.
In fact, it will be remembered forever, because it’s the day the former Allegany High standout took a giant step to fulfilling a childhood dream.
Nightengale, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher who recently finished his junior season at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the 16th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft on Wednesday.
“Pure excitement and joy,” he said of the sampling of emotions he felt when he learned he would be selected and when his name was called. “Getting this opportunity is very rare and a very high honor.
“I’m extremely excited to get this chance at the next level.”
Nightengale, a 2014 graduate of Allegany, was the 473rd overall pick of the draft. He said he expects to sign and begin the next chapter of his baseball career soon.
Athletically, Nightengale has a full year of NCAA eligibility remaining. Academically, he is only 13 credits shy of graduating.
“I’ll be getting a phone call from the A’s (Wednesday night), and then I’ll fly to Mesa, Arizona for a physical, and then negotiations, and then the season would start in 12 days.” He said that the Athletics would pay for the remainder of his schooling.
Nightengale said Wednesday, at about the 12th round, he got a couple of phone calls and texts from several teams, including the Nationals, Royals and Padres, regarding signability. An official from the A’s, who had been one of the teams that had actively scouted Nightengale all year, texted to tell him to “stay close to the phone.”
“Within two picks, they called me and welcomed me to the organization.”
And just like that, a career that started with the Pirates Tee Ball team and progressed to Bayliner and Allegany Business Consulting in the Appalachian Little League, included a Hot Stove League championship with Riverside Sports, and time with Hite Roofing of the Rec League and the Tri-State Titans and Cumberland Orioles of the PenMar-WV League, not to mention a standout career at Allegany High, had moved to the ultimate level.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was 4 or 5 years old, since I started playing tee ball and playing in the back yard with dad,” he said. His father, Tim, is the boys head soccer coach at Mountain Ridge.
“It’s just awesome. But it doesn’t stop here. Now the working starts, to try to make it to the big leagues,” he said. “And I want to say ‘thank you’ to all of the many coaches and friends and supporters who have helped me along the way.”
Nightengale said baseball was always his favorite sport, and he always wanted to be a pitcher. He throws a fast ball, curve ball and change-up, and is currently working on adding a slider.
This year at George Mason, he set career highs for wins, innings pitched and strikeouts, going 6-6 with a 3.45 earned run average. He pitched 88 2/3 innings, allowed 83 hits, walked 32 and struck out 80. He was second in the Atlantic-10 Conference in starts (15), sixth in innings pitched, seventh in strikeouts.
He won three of his last four starts, and in his final five he pitched 34 1/3 innings and allowed eight earned runs for a 2.09 ERA. He walked 12 and struck out 26.
George Mason was 29-27 overall and tied for second in the Atlantic-10 with a 16-8 record. The Patriots lost to regular-season champion Saint Louis, 5-0, in the A-10 Tournament final.
At Allegany, Nightengale received the 2014 Skip Cook Memorial Award as the area’s Player of the Year and was a two-time first-team All-Area selection playing for head coach Scott Bauer.
He was 8-0 with a 1.30 ERA and a .438 batting average during his Player of the Year senior season. The Campers were 19-2 and area, City and AMAC champions that year. They were 21-4, region champs and Class 1A state runners-up his junior year.
In basketball, Nightengale was first-team All-Area in 2014, and helped lead the Campers to a 60-16 record and two area, City and AMAC championships in his three varsity seasons for coach Tedd Eirich. Allegany was 24-2 and state runner-up in his senior year.
Nightengale was one of 14 pitchers taken by the Athletics during the 40-round draft. Twelve of the 14 were right-handers. Ironically, the last Allegany player, who was also a pitcher and a Player of the Year, had also been taken in the 16th round, Aaron Laffey, by the Cleveland Indians, in 2003.
Follow Mike Mathews on Twitter @MikeMathewsCTN.