One of the most talented baseball players currently attending Nipomo High ironically hasn’t played for the Titans baseball team. But nonetheless, he’ll be continuing his career at a Division I school.
Nipomo senior Jeff McNeil, who has starred on the Titans boys golf team but significantly developed as a baseball player with the California Wahoos summer-league team this past year, verbally committed to play baseball at Cal State Northridge after a recent visit and will sign his National Letter of Intent to play for the Matadors at 9 a.m. today at Nipomo High.
“I really liked the coach,” McNeil said of Cal State Northridge head coach Steve Rousey. He added that he feels he has a good chance of playing as a freshman. “My main goal is playing as much as I can (early).”
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound McNeil primarily led off and played shortstop for the Wahoos, and Cal State Northridge will likely keep him at that position, Wahoos manager Vince Sagisi said. The Matadors first scouted him this past summer in southern California, Sagisi said. Statistics from his time with the Wahoos were not available.
“He came in and was really a table-setter for us,” Sagisi said. “He’s a very good contact hitter. He rakes line drives all over the field, and he can run. Once he’s able to get on base, he’s aggressive.
“He’s also a pretty good defensive shortstop, and has a strong arm,” Sagisi said. “Those were kind of the ingredients Northridge was looking for.”
Last year, the Matadors went 24-32 and 7-17 in the stacked Big West Conference, which sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament, including Cal Poly.
“It’s just going to be fun playing against high-caliber players and getting ready for the next level,” McNeil said.
McNeil played golf for the Titans the past three years before trying his hand on the diamond on the summer and club circuits.
“Golf was my favorite sport up until I started playing with the Wahoos,” McNeil said. “I knew I had a good shot (to play at the next level), so I stuck with it.”
McNeil, who last year led the Nipomo boys basketball team in scoring with 17 points per game, said he was unsure if he’d play baseball for the Titans this spring, as boys golf is also in season then.
“Obviously, he’s very athletic and talented,” Sagisi said. “But he’s also a very competitive kid, and I think being a golfer is going to help him in baseball. He’s a self-motivated kid and has a tremendous work ethic.”
The Matadors have taken on a number of San Luis Obispo County products in recent years. Last year’s Cal State Northridge roster featured San Luis Obispo High grad Robbie Nadalsky, who has since transferred to Cuesta College, and the Matadors’ fall roster this year includes San Luis Obispo’s Darren Mullen and Morro Bay’s Jacob Petersen.
“There are a lot of talented kids along the Central Coast,” said Sagisi, a Santa Maria native who played for Cal State Northridge and went on to become a scout for the Cleveland Indians. “They just need an opportunity to be evaluated (by scouts). What the Wahoos try to do with kids on the Central Coast is give them exposure to different schools, and Jeff is a byproduct of that.”