Whenever Cade Nicol throws a pitch, there always appears to be a smile on his face. “I think the next time I hear him say anything negative will be the first time I hear anything (negative) from him,” said West Ranch coach Casey Burrill. “He’s always smiling.” With the situation Nicol was thrust into and the success he’s had, why wouldn’t he be smiling? Ahead of preleague, the Wildcats had their bullpen just about sorted out, with returning senior Alex Burge set to go as their ace. But when Burge began experiencing arm pain, the Cats coaching staff had to find someone to step up and fast. That’s when Nicol came in. in addition to Foothill League opponent Saugus. He holds a 0.78 ERA and has allowed 11 hits while striking out 16 across the three games. “I’ve always been prepared and always been ready,” Nicol, a junior, said. “My coaches have always gotten me prepared to fill in whenever needed and to throw and pitch whenever I’m needed. “I’ve always been looking forward to the challenge and things have been going well so far and I’m hoping for things to keep working out and keep going great.” Nicol said he’s been playing baseball for as long as he can remember. When he was five years old, he was always dragging around a bat or tossing a ball around. He tried his hand at a few other sports, including basketball, but ultimately chose baseball after being drawn to the combination of mental and physical skill that the game requires. “(I like) the ability to have a bad game one day and then the next day be able to come out again and have a great game,” he said. “The ability of just continuing to get better and there’s something you can always improve in in baseball.” Burge is currently in a closer role and is expected to see time on the mound against either Valencia or Golden Valley in the coming week. As his duties pick up, though, Nicol, with a smile on his face, will remain a valuable asset. “He’s earned this role of being one of our starters in league and of course he’s pitched great in his first league game and we don’t expect anything different,” said Burrill.