NORMAL — Nick Gilhaus entered the recruiting process seeking Division I competition on the baseball field and a challenging curriculum off it. The Normal Community High School senior believes he has found both at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Gilhaus will sign a national letter of intent with Milwaukee on Wednesday, the first day of the November signing period. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder was recruited as a pitcher, but also hopes to hit on the college level.
A top-notch student, he plans to major in computer engineering and then pursue a master's degree.
"Academics are really important to me," said Gilhaus, who seriously considered Brown University of the Ivy League. "Milwaukee has a really good engineering school. That combined with baseball, I thought it was the best option."
Gilhaus was 4-2 last spring at NCHS with two saves and a 1.85 earned run average. He struck out 57 batters in 49 innings.
His fastball was clocked at 90 mph last month in Jupiter, Fla., while playing for the Reds Midwest Scout Team.
"I got to play with some of the best players in the Midwest and I really learned a lot from them in how they go about their business," Gilhaus said. "It was more the mental side of the game ... what it takes to compete at the next level."
NCHS coach Ryan Short listed "mental toughness" among Gilhaus' strengths.
"He throws hard, but he also plays the mental part of the game really well," Short said. "He knows when to pitch a hitter backwards. He also knows when to reach back and give it all he's got."
Gilhaus has been a key man in the Ironmen offense. He came on late in his sophomore year and hit four home runs down the stretch, including two in a regional final against Normal West.
Last season, he had team highs of five homers and 33 runs batted in. His 30 hits tied for the team lead and his .361 batting average was best among the NCHS regulars. Gilhaus also walked 23 times.
"I have a lot of pride in my offensive ability," he said. "I'm never going to stop working on that until they tell me I have to."
Short said Gilhaus' 33 RBIs ranked as "one of the higher totals in recent years for us."
"He works at it," Short said. "He spends a lot of time not only pitching, but also on developing his swing and trying to be a good hitter."
Milwaukee, which will play on a new field this spring, was 26-28 last season and 13-12 in the Horizon League.
"They're usually in the top three in the Horizon League," Gilhaus said. "I'd love to be part of something where we can improve that and hopefully win it when I'm there."