Signing day: Tanielu's baseball journey will move from Federal Way to Washington State

The baseball coaches at Federal Way High School didn’t have a clue what they had three years ago when a freshman from Alabama essentially showed up on their doorstep.

But it didn’t take them long to figure out that they had something special in Nick Tanielu.

“It took us about five minutes to know that this kid is probably going to play for us as a freshman,” Eagle assistant Joe Haworth said Wednesday. “That doesn’t happen a lot. Without a doubt, Nick is the best hitter I’ve seen since Travis Ishikawa, who just won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants. I’m hoping someday I will be saying the same thing about Nick.”

Tanielu will be taking his game to Washington State University next fall. The All-State shortstop inked his national letter of intent to play for the Cougars in the school’s cafeteria Wednesday morning.

“I loved it when I went down there on a visit,” Tanielu said about WSU. “I like the players and the coaches. They said they would use me as an all-around player. I’m hoping to go in there and be ready to play right away.”

Tanielu grew up in Alabama before transferring to Federal Way during his freshman year in high school. The family came to the area to take care of his grandma in the hospital. After she passed away a month later, they decided to remain in Federal Way.

“I really like it out here,” said Tanielu. “I thought about going back (to the University of Alabama) to play. But I decided to stay out here.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has been a monster at the plate during his Eagle career.

Last year, as a junior, Tanielu finished second in the South Puget Sound League North in hitting with a .548 batting average and led the Eagles to a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament at Safeco Field.

He also led the league in runs scored with 26 in 16 games and stolen bases with 12. Tanielu also had 12 RBIs, five doubles, one triple, three home runs and struck out only twice during the entire season.

This all came despite being pitched around all year long. He led the league in walks with 17. Tanielu also played a solid defensive shortstop for the Eagles and was a first-team, All-SPSL North and All-State selection.

As a sophomore, he finished with a .488 batting average and led the SPSL North with seven home runs and a slugging percentage of 1.070. Tanielu was second in the league with 25 RBIs and scored 26 runs, stole seven bases in seven attempts and was a first-team, All-SPSL North selection.

But baseball isn’t the only sport Tanielu has excelled at during his time at Federal Way. He was also a three-year starter at quarterback for the Eagle football team and led Federal Way into the postseason twice.

During the last two seasons, Tanielu threw for over 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last year, he was the first-team, All-SPSL North quarterback.

There is a chance that Tanielu will be drafted in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft in June. But his focus is currently on getting Federal Way back into the state playoffs and continuing his career at Washington State.

“If I get drafted I will have to see what the deal would be and talk it over with my dad,” Tanielu said. “Right now, I’m going to WSU. But we’ll see. My goal has always been to go to college and get a degree.”

The Cougar program is definitely on an upswing in Pullman. For the second-straight season, Washington State received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division I Championship last spring.

The Cougars (37-22) finished third in the Pac-10 and were one of 34 at-large recipients to the 64-team field. Washington State eventually lost to Arkansas in the NCAA Baseball Regional Final.

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