Concord Spiders designated hitter Nick Falleni says he will do anything to help his team produce runs.
In fact, he leads his team in “hits” but not the kind of hits that will help him earn a batting championship.
True to his reputation as a hard worker who will make sacrifices for his team, Falleni has unintentionally developed a knack for getting hit by pitches. It’s OK by him as long as it helps move runners around the bases, which is his specialty.
In the final year of a high school career plagued by injuries, Falleni wants “to have fun and go out there and give it my all” to help Concord win games. So far, it’s working.
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The Spiders wrapped up the first half of their conference schedule with a 6-2 mark – good enough for second place in the South Piedmont 3A, one game behind South Rowan. Their league record includes a current six-game winning streak.
Falleni, who was also a four-year member of Concord’s football program, started playing baseball when he was 4. He said he never had injuries until he reached high schoolwhen he became a first aid kit’s best friend.
Falleni had a solid freshman season as a junior varsity catcher. During football season of his sophomore year, he tore his right shoulder while making a block in a junior varsity game.
Falleni tried to play through the injury during his sophomore baseball season. He was limited to 13 games but mustered only two hits in 26 at-bats. The pain was too uncomfortable for him to swing a bat.
After a junior football season in which he helped the Spiders reach the state championship game as a fullback and linebacker, Falleni had surgery to repair his shoulder. He missed an even larger chunk of the baseball season, returning for a mere three games to go hitless in six at-bats.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do, just sitting and watching,” Falleni said.
He dedicated himself to football last summer, gearing up for his senior season. The Spiders had finished as the state 3A runner-up the previous two seasons and expectations were high.
But Falleni never played a down on the Bailey Stadium turf.
During a pre-season scrimmage against Rocky River, Falleni fell awkwardly on his right arm and broke his wrist and thumb. In terms of sports, the tables were turned. Without football, Falleni knew he needed to focus on baseball.
Concord baseball coach Jaymie Russ and Falleni spoke about their goals and expectations before the season. Russ explained that there were other good players at the two positions at which Falleni was most adept: catcher and first base.
But Russ found a spot for Falleni in the lineup primarily as a designated hitter. He also plays some first base, when starter Will Capron is pitching.
Falleni has settled in nicely in the lineup, hitting behind leadoff hitter Carter Mozingo. Falleni does everything you would expect from someone in the two-hole: he lays down sacrifice bunts, hits-and runs, and also gets on base.
Starting with a West Rowan game March 20, Falleni got hit by a pitch in six straight games, including twice against Southlake Christian on March 31.
“He’s very unselfish,” Russ said. “He will bunt a guy over. He will make contact. He gives himself up each time up there.”
Calling himself a “ball magnet,” Falleni says he doesn’t try to get hit by pitches. As a right-handed hitter, he’s taken hits on the left side of his body in the chin, thigh, arm and buttocks. He brushes it off as part of the game.
His sense of loyalty and sacrifice might pay off long-term. In early February, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.