Nederland senior Gabe Nevala signed with the Marion Military Institute on Wednesday, becoming the first member of his baseball program to pledge to a college this season.
“It feels good,” Nevala said. “I didn’t want to go through season not knowing (where I’d end up), so it’s a big relief that I do have a place to play. Now I can have fun with the season and focus on what I can do in college.”
While the NCAA signing period for baseball doesn’t open until April, the National Junior College Athletic Association’s date for baseball is Jan. 15.
Nevala got the occasional start in the outfield last season for Nederland and came off the bench as a pinch runner at times. He should be able to use that speed to his advantage in center field this season for the Bulldogs, but also should be a big part of the Nederland pitching staff.
“Gabe should play center field for us this season and we’re hoping he’ll be big for us on the mound, too,” Nederland head coach Cody Robbins said. “He’s a good kid and should be a very good addition to a college program.”
The Marion Military Institute is a two-year junior college in Marion, Ala., 50 miles south of Tuscaloosa. The school is in its fifth year of having a baseball program and is led by former Little Cypress-Mauriceville player Jake Rowell, who was the district’s offensive MVP his senior year in 2007.
Nevala said he’s got extensive family ties to the military, as his dad was in the Air Force and he had other family members in the other branches of the armed forces. That’s part of what drew him to the junior college, but being a two-year school with smaller classes and more interaction was vitally important.
“I wanted to go to a junior college,” Nevala said. “I didn’t want to go to a huge school. I wanted a place with less students, and more one on one time. The coaches on baseball team are really young. They can relate to more things, with more drills designed to help me improve.”
Former LC-M right-handed pitcher Ryan Carline was a freshman last season for Marion and was recruited by Rowell. He is one of five Texas players on the Tigers roster.