Nick Grady has never been married to any one position on the baseball field.

Since arriving at the University of Southern Maine three years ago, the Erskine Academy graduate has played third base, first base and a couple of outfield positions. Last year, he moved from third base to right field so coach Ed Flaherty could fit another bat into his lineup. He played the position well enough that Flaherty said Grady made two of the better catches he saw all season.

This year, though, Grady is back at third and thriving at his most comfortable position.

“I like third,” Grady said. “I’m definitely . . . a lot more comfortable at third base than I was my freshman year.” Grady has all the tools expected of a third baseman: Strong arm, quick reflexes and the willingness to jump in front of ground balls and block them with his body.

“He’s outstanding,” Flaherty said. “I think he’s one of the best third basemen in New England. He’s a tough kid that suits that position.”

Grady isn’t in the Huskies lineup for his glove alone. He bats cleanup for the Huskies and is again producing. So far this season, he’s hitting .363 with five homers, six triples, 10 doubles and 32 RBIs. Last season, he finished with similar numbers, batting .358 with 34 RBIs and six homers. Grady bats right-handed but his strength at the plate is toward the power alley in right-center.

“He’s a power hitter, a strong guy,” Flaherty said. “He uses the middle of the field, that’s his strength. He’s not a home run hitter.”

As the No. 4 hitter in the lineup, Grady sees his share of breaking balls, particularly on the weekends when he’s more likely to see an opponent’s No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. He doesn’t walk or strike out much which is why he drives in runs.

“In the cleanup spot you see a lot more off-speed pitches,” Grady said. “I try to hit the fastball early in the count.”

Flaherty said Grady has improved steadily as a hitter.

“He’s very good with two strikes,” Flaherty said. “He stays off that one out of the zone lately. He’s getting better. He’s still developing the mental part of hitting.”

Like many of his teammates, Grady spends a lot of time in the weight room. He’s 6-foot-1 and a solid 200 pounds and works out nearly every day, going a little lighter during the season. It’s translated, he said, into a quicker bat and a little more power.

“I can pull the ball a little better than I have in the past,” he said.

The Huskies are 19-16 overall and 9-3 in the Little East Conference. They swept a key doubleheader last weekend against Keene State and if they win one of two at home this weekend against Eastern Connecticut, they’ll host the Little East tournament. Spotty pitching and injuries have hurt the Huskies but Flaherty feels they’ve turned around the past week or so. One player he doesn’t have to worry about is Grady.

“He’s had constant improvement since his freshman year,” Flaherty said. “He knows he’s in the lineup every day. I like his personality. He’s a fun-loving kid that doesn’t take it too seriously. Therefore he doesn’t go into too many slumps.”

Grady played in the Portland Twilight League last summer but hopes to upgrade this summer by playing for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide or the Sanford Mainers, both collegiate summer baseball teams.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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