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Nick Gardewine threw almost exclusively fastballs and cutters his senior year at Effingham. It’s really all the 6-foot-1 righthander needed to go 8-1 with 74 strikeouts and a 0.76 ERA in 55 innings for the Hearts

But he knew he wouldn’t survive on just two pitches at Kaskaskia College. Gardewine added three off-speed offerings to his pair of fastballs — including a hard-breaking slider and a changeup learned from pitching coach Marcus Wilson — and put together a 9-1 season with 84 strikeouts, a 2.12 ERA and a no-hitter in his first start for the Blue Devils.

The year at Kaskaskia made a world of difference.

Gardewine had zero interest from MLB teams out of high school. But following his standout season at Kaskaskia, which saw the Blue Devils play in the NJCAA Division I World Series, Gardewine shot up the draft boards.

It culminated Friday afternoon on the second day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft when Gardewine was made the 24th pick of the seventh round and 220th overall selection by the Texas Rangers.

“I was actually pretty surprised that I went that early,” Gardewine said. “Most teams were talking eighth through 10th round was where I was going.”

The strides Gardewine made at Kaskaskia — where he ended up being a NJCAA Division I honorable mention All-American — actually gave him draft stock he could improve upon. Simply playing at the JUCO in Centralia was a step in the right direction.

“Going to KC, they bring you to places they know you’re going to get looked at,” Gardewine said. “KC just opened up a whole new window of opportunity for me.

“The World Series was definitely the best baseball experience I’ve had in my career. It was definitely fun to play at that level, and it definitely didn’t hurt me (draft-wise) playing in the playoffs.”

MLB scouts got to see more than just Gardewine’s expanding pitching repertoire this spring. And what they saw, they obviously liked.

“I heard from every single scout that I had some of the best mechanics they’d seen in a long time,” Gardewine said. “I was fluid with my motion and smooth. And they said I was sneaky fast. They didn’t think I would be throwing that hard.”

Gardewine’s fastball ranges anywhere from 90-93 mph, and he said scouts also like his slider that breaks more than halfway across the plate.

Now comes a difficult decision for Gardewine. He expressed the desire to play another season at Kaskaskia and make another — and longer — World Series run, but he couldn’t discount the idea of turning pro. The Rangers’ area scout met with Gardewine on Thursday night to discuss his options.

“Top 10 round draft pick, it’s hard to pass up,” Gardewine said. “This is what I’ve always wanted. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

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