Nathanial Tate didn't set expectations too high for himself heading into his freshman year of college playing baseball at East Tennessee State University. The former Central High School pitcher was excited to get going, but he knew it would be an adjustment.
Those lower expectations were shattered: his first season turned out to be a success at the Division 1 level.
"I knew I would come in and compete because I'm a big-time competitor and I like to win," Tate explained. "I figured I would do good, I had that confidence in myself. It got there and I started succeeding and it just started piling up together."
Tate, a closing pitcher, finished the season with a 1.21 ERA and a 4-0 win-loss record through 18 appearances. Through 29.2 innings pitched, Tate piled on 33 strikeouts and gave up 21 hits and nine runs.
His pitch speed also saw a big uptick. On Wednesday, May 22, Tate reached 94 miles per hour on the mound against UNC Greensboro in the Southern Conference Tournament. ETSU won the game 4-2 after Tate came in for the save with runners on first and second.
For his efforts throughout the season, he was named to the SoCon all-freshman team on Monday, May 20.
"I'm very proud of the way that he's grown up to be the leader, the man that he is," CHS coach David Martin said. "I knew he was going to have a big career, I just didn't expect him to take off and grab the lead by the storm the way that he did this year as a freshman."
Tate credited his continued development as a pitcher to his ETSU coaches, in particular, his pitching coach Micah Posey. He also credited the seniors who showed him the ropes and offered advice on how to be successful.
Tate said the mental side of the game was where he had the most advancement. Over the course of his freshman year, Tate learned how to have better command of his pitches.
"The physical part of the game has been there for me and I've had that for a while," Tate said. "But I didn't really know how to pitch until I got there."
The transition to the college game was also eased with the help of his new teammates. The Buccaneers were quick to embrace Tate and his fellow freshmen as their own. Between his success on the field and the bonds he created with his team, it was difficult for Tate to nail down one favorite moment.
"Honestly, I love it all. Every part of it just gives me the giggles," Tate said. "I don't know if I could pick out one giant moment that has just blown me away. The whole season has just been absolutely incredible."
With the season wrapped up, Tate is excited to run it back in 2020 as a sophomore and build on the success he's already had.
"Now that I know what to expect and what I can do, I feel like I can most definitely exceed these expectations," Tate said. "I feel that if I set my goals a little bit better than I did for this past year, I can achieve those and then achieve a little better or a whole lot better than what I figured I could do."