This was not the way Nick Pappas envisioned being featured on ESPN.
The College of Charleston first baseman had just ripped a two-run double to deep center field in the first inning against Florida and was standing on second base reveling in the moment during the NCAA regional game Friday night.
As Florida pitcher Logan Shore stepped off the mound and bent down to tie his shoe, Pappas took a small, tentative step off second base. What Pappas didn't realize was that Shore didn't have the ball. Gators shortstop Richie Martin, standing a few feet away from Pappas, had the ball in his glove and pounced on the unsuspecting baserunner, tagging him for the first out of the inning.
The Cougars would go on to win the game, 3-2, and eventually capture the Gainesville Regional, but when the former Dutch Fork High School star returned to the team's hotel later that night, he had become an instant celebrity, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
The play was featured prominently on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays. It was repeated on SportsCenter through the night and well into the next day. Pappas' name began to trend on Twitter and his social media accounts and cell phone blew up with messages.
But the easygoing Pappas, who has taken his fair share of good-natured ribbing from his teammates since the game, has embraced his notoriety.
"Actually it's been pretty cool," Pappas said after the Cougars returned to the Lowcountry to prepare for this weekend's super regional at Texas Tech. "I've had a lot more people on Twitter talking about me, texting me, sending me stuff, so it's been pretty cool.
"I kind of wished it hadn't happen like it did, but in the end, because we won the game and won the regional, it's been fun. It probably wouldn't be so fun if we had lost the game."
College of Charleston coach Monte Lee accepts full responsibility for Pappas' miscue. In one of the many scouting reports Lee had sifted through before the game, he had read that the Gators like to use the hidden ball trick. During his pre-game preparations and several team meetings, Lee didn't mention the possibility to his players.
"I was not happy," Lee said. "That was totally on me. I knew about it, I'd read it in the scouting report and I didn't say anything. That's my fault. I was so mad at myself. I'm just glad it didn't end up hurting us."
Lee is confident that Pappas will be remembered for much bigger things by the time he's finished playing college ball.
"He's one of the most talented freshmen I've ever had here," Lee said. "I haven't had a freshman that I considered putting in the three or four spot in the lineup as a true freshman."
Pappas hit better than .340 during fall practice and earned a starting spot at first base for the season opener against North Carolina. He got off to a hot start, getting six hits in his first five games, but by the middle of the season, Pappas' bat had begun to cool and he sat out a couple of games.
"He had a typical freshman year," Lee said. "He started out swinging the bat really well and then he just struggled in the middle part of the year. We had to sit him for a few games and when he got back into the lineup, he's been really good for us."
Pappas is hitting .304 with team-high 15 RBIs over the last 20 games. In the Cougars' six postseason games, he batted .364 with a home run and six RBIs. He smacked a solo home run against Long Beach State in the regional, and was named to the CAA All-Tournament team. Pappas also is one of the top fielding first basemen in the nation, sporting a .992 fielding percentage with just three errors on 394 chances.
"Nick Pappas has a chance to be a pretty high draft pick before he's done here," Lee said. "You don't see that many first basemen that are that good defensively, that can move like he does. He can throw, he can hit, he can hit for some power. He's got a chance to be a very special player."
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