Patience finally pays off for Nick Rulli
Former Laker standout finds place with OSU baseball powerhouse
Nick Rulli was tired of waiting, but he kept on waiting.
The former Lake Oswego High School all-stater pinned all of his hopes on playing Division I baseball for one of the finest teams in the nation, the Oregon State University Beavers of Coach Pat Casey.
For three years, all of his waiting and persistence got him nowhere. One year he entirely sat out. The next year he got three at bats. The year after that he got four.
"I know there were times Nick was tempted to give up," said Jake Anders, LOHS baseball coach. "He was used to playing here at Lake Oswego and he was frustrated. He was a walk-on at Oregon State. He was not a nationally rated player."
"It's been a tough road for him," his father Nick Rulli, Sr., said. "When you're a walk-on there's not a lot of opportunity to show what you can do."
But Rulli has proven that good things happen to good guys who wait. His dream became a reality this season as he has played a key role in helping the Beaver baseballers rise to fifth place in the NCAA Division I rankings. Rulli has been platooned in center field, seeing the most action when OSU faces left-handed pitching, and he has provided hitting and defense when the Beavers needed it. Like in their early season 8-1 crushing of Indiana University, the 10th ranked team in the nation and a qualifier for the 2013 College World Series.
"My first start came in the game against Indiana," Rulli said. "I laid down a push bunt and scored a run. In my fourth at bat I doubled versus a team that made Omaha last year. That sparked some confidence."
Rulli is now batting .318 for a team that is 22-6 and could well be heading for a PAC 12 title and another spot in the CWS. It makes his many friends in Lake Oswego feel good.
"Nick approached this season with the attitude that he was going to get some opportunities, and now he's doing a nice job," Anders said. "He waited and waited and waited, and now he is getting significant playing time. His is a story of perseverance."
In fact, Rulli's success this season is also a success for Lake Oswego.
"His friends have all been involved with Nick over the years," his mother, Christine Rulli, said. "We have a throwback to an old-fashioned community. It's helped make our guys the men they are."
Lake Oswego has been a great place for young athletes. Rulli was part of a class that achieved great success on the playing fields and gymnasiums. A state title eluded the Lakers during Rulli's years at LOHS, but they were always there at the end of the season, competing for the very top spot. Few contributed more to the Lakers' success in football and baseball than Rulli, who was all-state in both sports. In football he was an outstanding pass receiver and cornerback, and in baseball he batted over .400 and played brilliantly in center field.
"Nick was a solid, solid player," Anders said. "He could run like a deer and had a big arm. He was very gifted."
Due to his shining high school career, Rulli had high hopes for a college athletic career. So he shot for the top -- a spot with a Division I baseball team. He was willing to prove he deserved it. Rulli went to play baseball at San Joaquin Delta Junior College in California and batted .323 as a freshman. He could have stayed on for his sophomore season and would have likely achieved some big numbers and lots of offers, but he was ready to move up.
"Nick was invited to play for Gonzaga University," Christine Rulli said. "Just as we were leaving there, that's when OSU called. Nick just loves baseball and he didn't hesitate to accept their offer to walk on there. He asked himself did he have what it took, and he leaped at the offer. He wanted to go for the gold ring. He wanted to have no regrets and to see how far he could go with this thing."
Talented and eager as he was, Rulli's baseball career immediately stalled. The two-time NCAA champion Beavers were loaded with talent, and for a long time it seemed a breakthrough would never happen for Rulli. But even when he reached his last year of eligibility he wanted to hang onto his goal.
"After the College World Series last year we talked," Anders said. "Nick had one year left, and he thought that if he had gone this far he didn't want to give up. He didn't want to look back with regrets about his career. He approached this season with the idea that he would get an opportunity and would do a good job."
Rulli's chance finally arrived. Standout Beaver centerfielder Max Gordon graduated, and another centerfield prospect went down with an injury. Now, the Beavers and Rulli are going places.
"Things are going well," Rulli said. "We've definitely had some bumps on the road, but we've come out of them. Our pitching is good and the defense behind the pitching is good, and our offense can be pretty potent. I'm getting lots of at-bats against lefthanders. Coach Casey has changed my whole approach to hitting. I was definitely more of a pull hitter when I first came to OSU. My defense has always been there."
In this day and age, college athletes are quick to cut and run if things are not going their way. Not Nick Rulli.
"This has really been all about Nick," Christine Rulli said. "He is a pretty centered kid and has lots of good qualities."
"Nick is just a great kid," Anders said. "Everyone wants to be his friend because he's such a good dude. It's kudos to Nick and kudos to Oregon State for having the kind of program where he could get a chance for success."JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT