Originally created 04/21/00

Westside pitcher racks up hits



It first came across as a joke. Then it became a reality.

"I was joking early in the season with Ryan Nevils," said Westside's Matt Nixon. "I kind of set some (offensive) numbers that would be unreal to meet. I told Ryan that I wanted to hit 14 homers and drive in something like 60 RBI."

Nixon's words are no longer a joke. The Westside senior has come close to accomplishing those "unreal" numbers he set for himself early this season. Through 26 games, Nixon has belted 12 home runs and has 59 RBI.

With his two grand slams in a 14-13 victory over Statesboro on Monday night, the senior established a Westside single-season home run record, breaking Jason Beck's record off 11 set during the 1996 season.

"It's very surprising," said Nixon, who hit just three home runs last season. "I never hit home runs in my whole life, even when I was in Little League and T-ball. I hit one homer in Little League. Hitting three home runs last year was a big number for me."

A player who earned a reputation as a top-notch pitcher earlier in his career, Nixon also has earned a reputation as a power-hitter this season. His 59 RBI are at least 20 more than any other player in the Augusta area.

Currently, his 12 homers tie him with Greenbrier's Chad Thornhill for the area lead. However, Nixon is modest about his numbers.

"The guys in front of me, Kurt Williams and Scott Bryant, their on-base percentages are like .600," said Nixon, who leads the team with a .512 batting average. "It's kind of hard not to drive in runs when you have guys like that in front of you."

Part of Nixon's success at the plate has been his hard work in the weight room. As a wide receiver for the past two seasons on Westside's football team, Nixon has spent countless hours conditioning himself for his senior season on the diamond.

"Anytime you drive in lot of runs like that, you've got to have people to drive in," said Westside coach Gerald Barnes. "He has done a good job with that. He's gotten himself a lot stronger in last two years. He has more confidence and I think he's more selective in his pitches."

Nixon, who also boasts a 5-2 record on the mound with a 3.67 ERA, contributes part of his success to a freak accident shortly before the season started.

During a rare snowstorm a month before the season started, Nixon injured his left hand playing in the snow. With a cast on his left hand to start the season, Nixon now looks at the injury as a blessing in disguise.

"I missed most (of the preseason) and I could never hit; all I could do was throw," he said. "While playing in the snow, I fell on some ice and I didn't realize my hand was hurt. I thought my hand was hurt from it just being cold outside.

"But I think it was good because I can roll my top hand over and pull through with my left hand (when I hit)."

Nixon will have a chance to add to his totals when his Patriots play at least one more game in the Region 3-AAA tournament against Greenbrier on Saturday.

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.