Seton Hill third baseman Sell's career turning golden

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:54 p.m.

As a 160-pound shortstop at North Allegheny, Nick Sell hardly looked the part of a budding star. The swing was sound, but the body, and — by Sell's admission — the work ethic left a lot to be desired.

Sell, in fact, used the word “underachiever” to describe himself as a high school player.

But as this season dawns, he can use a different term in front of his name: Golden Spikes nominee.

A junior third baseman at Seton Hill, Sell is on the 60-player preseason watch list for college baseball's most prestigious award. He earned the recognition after hitting .431 with 13 homers, 57 RBIs and 26 stolen bases and being named to two publications' first-team All-America squads last year. He's one of just seven non-Division I players on the Golden Spikes list.

“I will admit I did not,” said Griffins coach Marc Marizzaldi when asked if he could foresee this type of production from Sell. “I think what's made a big difference for Nick is the physical development.

“You hear about a lot of college athletes that have to grow into their body. With Nick, he needed to grow into his swing.”

Sell has packed 30 pounds onto his 6-foot-1 frame since arriving at Seton Hill, and the results have been obvious. He has hit 24 homers in two college seasons after hitting just one in high school.

“I definitely benefited from figuring out where the weight room was, that's for sure,” Sell said. “I didn't really work hard (in high school). It kind of clicked for me coming to college and seeing other guys and realizing that nothing is going to be handed to you.”

His career at Seton Hill has not been without adversity. He missed the Griffins' fall seasons following his freshman and sophomore years because of injuries.

He had reconstructive ankle surgery in November and said he is now back at 100 percent.

Sell and the Griffins face an additional challenge this season: They are first-year members of the PSAC after moving from the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. But as a team that came one game short of the Division II World Series in 2013, Seton Hill already has earned the respect of its new foes. The Griffins were picked to win the PSAC West.

“In the new conference, I'm definitely going to see some better arms and some better pitching, and guys will be able to locate and not make mistakes,” he said.

“I don't think there's very much of an adjustment at all from a hitting standpoint. I think the only thing that might change is patience at the plate and pitch selection.”

Sell admits his dream always has been to play baseball professionally. Marizzaldi said scouts' interest in Sell has been minimal, but “it's just a matter of the right guy seeing him on the right day.”

Sell, meanwhile, doesn't consume himself with the thought of being drafted. Nor is he preoccupied with being on the Golden Spikes list.

It's just something else to use as motivation.

“I've seen some other preseason stuff and other lists I've been on, and this one's pretty prestigious, and I'm definitely honored to be on that,” he said. “But, ultimately, preseason hype and all that stuff is something I'm not a huge fan of. But it's kind of like having to play with something to prove, and I can use it to my advantage.”

Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com.

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