Nick Kahle has one of the biggest luxuries and pressures of any high school hitter in America this season. That’s because Kahle is batting behind one of the top hitters in the country in Blake Rutherford.
Kahle often comes to the plate with runners on base, but is expected to drive runs in. When Rutherford gets on base, which has happened quite frequently, Kahle often gets fed fastballs because of Rutherford’s wheels on the bases.
“Blake is obviously an experienced guy, a big-time athlete, a big-time player,” Kahle said. “He's just been hitting since Day 1 of the season and getting on base. We've been lucky to hit him in a lot. Once he gets on, he's always a threat to run.”
Pitchers are trying to keep the speedy Rutherford from stealing bases, but it has often backfired as Kahle has driven baseballs in the gaps or over the fence for extra-base hits.
The West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade Prep senior catcher had been a consistent producer, hitting .414 with 42 RBIs in 57 career games over his first three seasons. But after hitting five home runs and 12 doubles through his junior season, Kahle has really blossomed this season as he has tapped into his power potential.
In 18 games, he is hitting .382 with six doubles and six homers. While the average has slightly dipped, his on-base percentage is an even .500 and his slugging percentage is a career high .818. Kahle hit a pair of homers, including a walk-off two-run shot against Harvard Westlake early in the season and followed it with homers in each of his next two games — against some of the country’s top competition in the National High School Invitational tournament in North Carolina.
In last month’s Boras Classic, Chaminade struggled through the first two games as Kahle was held hitless, but won their final two games with Kahle hitting extra-base hits in each, including a first inning homer that also scored Rutherford to turn the tide of the Eagles’ tournament.
Kahle has an efficient swing and a simplistic approach. He said when he steps in the box, he just tries to hit the ball hard. That and his strong defensive work behind the plate made him one of the top catching prospects on the West Coast and earned him a scholarship to Washington where Chaminade teammate Tommy Costello has also signed.
“It's nice knowing once you get up there, you'll at least have one person that you could always be with, that you know well,” Kahle said. “We've been up there. We've met everyone who is going there too. We have a good class coming in.”
Part of the reason, Kahle signed with Washington was because of the new amenities for the baseball team.
“They have the new facilities, stadium. It's awesome. New hitting facility is great. Academically, the school is challenging, which is good. Then the coaching staff is great," Kahle says.
“Lindsay Meggs has done a great job and JK [Jason Kelly] with the pitching staff is great. [Donegal] Ferg[us] with hitting and [Tanner] Swanson with the catchers. It just seemed like it would be a great fit for me.”
Between committing in Dec. 2014 and signing during the early signing period a year later, Kahle got to watch as Washington catcher Austin Rei’s stock exploded last spring. Despite an early season injury that cost Rei much of the season, he was selected in the third round by the Boston Red Sox.
“You could see the progressions from when he got there to when he left,” Kahle said. “He was a high-level guy and he was lucky enough to get picked pretty high. It wasn't just defense. It was hitting as well, so you could tell it was multiple coaches having influences on him. Getting after it and working hard every day.”
If Kahle spurns starting his professional career immediately and ends up making it to campus, the Washington coaching staff is hoping he can follow a similar path as Rei and become a solid defender as well as a middle-of-the-lineup bat.
“Nick may be the toughest member of our 2016 class and he has all the intangibles you want behind the plate,” Meggs, Washington's head coach, said after the school’s recruiting class was announced in November. “While Nick is a talented catch and throw guy who can also swing the bat, it’s his approach to the game that really gets your attention.
“Nick is a leader on the field who runs the game, plays hard, is a great teammate and outworks everyone around him. He is exactly what we wanted back there, a consistent performer who makes everyone around him better.”