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Nick Allen: Short frame, big game

Nick Allen is one of the most dynamic players in the country, but could his height help the USC commit make it to college rather than signing with the pros?

Every time Nick Allen stepped into the batter’s box this summer, he was the least imposing hitter in his team’s lineup. But the 5-foot-9 San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker shortstop was one of the most feared hitters in the lineup. 

Allen is instant offense. He brings a skill set that puts the defense on edge. His bat control allows him to sting balls to all fields. His speed forces every grounder to be fielded cleanly and thrown quickly. Once he gets on base, his 6.56 second 60 speed makes him capable of swiping second and third base — sometimes on back-to-back pitches. 

He brings intangibles that are off the charts. While his peers are looking to the third base coach as they round second base when a ball is hit to right field, Allen already knows if he can take an extra base.

But none of those are the most impressive part of Allen’s game. That portion was on display in the first inning of the Perfect Game All-American Classic in his hometown at Petco Park. Playing in a major league stadium, Allen made a major league play with a full-extension diving back-handed stop in the hole. He quickly sprang to his feet and fired to first, showing off his arm that has been clocked at 91 mph across the diamond, beating the runner by half a step.

Allen followed up the defensive play of the game by going 2-for-3 with a walk. His first hit came on a line shot to right field where he feasts anytime pitchers try to work him on the outside half of the plate. But Allen showed earlier in the week at the Area Code Games that he could also hit the ball to left field, including on a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning that completed a comeback for the Southern California-based Brewers squad that kept them undefeated for the week. It took a Hagen Danner double and a slick slide by Garrett Mitchell at third base to even bring Allen to the plate.

"Before the at-bat, I was just focusing on being ready to go up there no matter what the situation was,” Allen said.

He was looking for a fastball and got one on the first pitch, but begrudgingly he took a strike. That changed his approach for the next pitch.

“Now I'm looking to get up there and have the mentality that I'm swinging on this next pitch. He hung a changeup up there. I was able to stay back on it enough that I poked it out to left field.”

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As he so often does, Allen doubled the effect of his hit by reading the outfielder’s throw and taking an extra base. He took two on an RBI single in the All-American Classic, going all the way to third base when the right fielder airmailed the throw home. Seeing the outfielder coming up firing home, Allen never slowed down between first and second base, making his trip to third an easy cruise when the ball bounced off the backstop.

Allen has been one of the most discussed prospects in the country on the summer circuit. He is such an offensive weapon and was named the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year, but some scouts are scared away by his stature. They are fearful of how his body will hold up over a seven-month professional season. That just serves as motivation for the diminutive dynamo.

“It always has. I've always been a smaller guy wherever I've been. It just gives me the motivation for when I step in the weight room or I step onto the field every time just to get better because I know someone else is working really hard, so I've just got to push myself even harder because of the size factor.”

The professional organizations’ fears could be USC head coach Dan Hubbs’ gain. Allen committed to the Trojans as a 15-year old and would be the gem of their 2017 recruiting class, if he makes it to campus.

“First of all, I like the education. I'm big on that,” Allen said of his commitment. “Second, it has the tools and all the supplies I need to push my game to the next level because I do want to be a big leaguer. I know all the coaches, when you set foot on the campus, that's their goal too -- to help you get to where you want to be. That's why it was a big no-doubter for me.”

On both the Brewers and the All-American Classic rosters, Allen was surrounded by USC commits. The Trojans had seven commits participating in the Area Code Games and five on the All-American Classic West squad. There were also a number of UCLA commits. While there was some good-natured rivalry banter, Allen said “the real rivalry will happen when we show up on campus.”

Allen shared the middle infield with the Bruins’ most impressive commit, potential No. 1 overall pick Hunter Greene, who also pitches and was saved by Allen’s diving stop in San Diego.  

"Playing with Hunter, he's a great player all around. He can pitch. He can hit. He can play some defense. And playing on this [the Brewers], it just pushes you to be at your game all the time because everyone else is.”

Allen’s summer teammates were equally as impressed with him. Fellow San Diegan USC commit Kyle Hunt summed it up best:

“I love having him play behind me because the kid never makes an error. Never.”

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