Valparaiso’s Nolan Tucker hasn’t let hiccups slow him down

NWITIMES – Noah Bortle

When Nolan Tucker graduated from Hanover Central, he thought he had a pretty good idea of what his college career at Valparaiso would look like.

Almost immediately, that idea was flipped on its head.

Tucker’s freshman season was the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He started all 16 of the Beacons’ games. He posted just a .196 batting average but was third on the team in on-base percentage at .358.

Heading into his sophomore year, he was ready to get back on track. Disaster struck four games in as he tore his hamstring, ending his season.

“I tried to play through it,” Tucker said, “and inevitably, just kind of had to give it up and redshirt and rehab and get surgery.”

His junior year, after recovering from another hamstring injury early in the year, he burst onto the scene. He batted .365 with 17 RBI across 36 games out of the leadoff spot. His batting average marked the highest by a Beacon since 2010. He earned All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team honors and cemented his place as one of the MVC’s best.

Now, he’s doubling down on his breakout 2022 campaign and despite his time at Valpo not going to plans, making it worth it.

“I definitely thought it would be a perfect ride,” Tucker said. “That everything would go great. It definitely did not go how I imagined.”

Now, the Beacons stand at 15-15 with a 6-7 record in the Valley — a shock considering they were pegged to finish last in the preseason poll. Valpo knocked off No. 22 Southern Miss on March 10, the program’s first win over a ranked team since Tucker has been there.

The funny thing about Tucker’s college plan is he Valparaiso was never really supposed to be in the picture. As a star in Cedar Lake, he envisioned himself playing further from home. However, he couldn’t be happier with how it’s worked out.

Not only has it meant that his family and friends have gotten to come to games and support him, but it’s also lead to some unlikely reunions.

“Bobby Nowak, me and him were infielders at (Hanover Central) and then I came to Valpo and he went to junior college,” Tucker said. “Then, he ended up back here with me. It’s pretty cool.

“When he was looking at schools, I was talking to him, I was like, ‘Bob, come play with me again, man, I’ll be your infielder. I’ll make all the plays for you. Like, come on, come over here.'”

Tucker’s pestering must have worked. Now, in his second year with the Beacons, Nowak has established himself as one of the best pitchers on Valpo’s staff, sporting a 2.10 ERA a year after picking up eight saves and an All-MVC Honorable Mention.

With the home stretch of the season in front of him, Tucker knows too well not to predict too much. But he does have some goals.

“We want to make the Missouri Valley Tournament,” Tucker said. “And to do that, we have to be in the top eight out of 10 teams. The rest of the year, we’re not going to try and do too much, we’re not going to try and sweep everyone you know, that’s not how it works.

“We’re, gonna focus on taking it one game at a time. And, you know, by the end of the year, we’re gonna we’re gonna hopefully be in that tournament.”

If the Beacons hope to be one of those eight teams still playing in the postseason, they’ll almost certainly need their .325 hitter with four homers and 22 RBI to lead them there.


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