Baseball: Nish squared spells double trouble for opponents

Ian Nish (left) and his brother James. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)
Ian Nish (left) and his brother James have helped power Mattituck to a county championship this season. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

One can only imagine what must go through an opposing pitcher’s mind after facing a 6-foot-3 Nish in the batter’s box and then, in the next at-bat, pitching to another 6-3 Nish, his identical twin.

“Wait a minute, didn’t I just pitch to this guy?” he could ask himself. 

Both Ian Nish and James Nish, who routinely bat third and fourth in the order for the Mattituck High School baseball team, respectively, share the same tall, athletic physique. The similarities are obvious. To help differentiate them, one can see that Ian wears uniform No. 15 and James wears No. 1. Ian plays first base while James plays left field and pitches. Ian bats right-handed and James hits from the left side.

James said he has noticed occasions when the opposing pitcher seems baffled by his appearance at the plate after his brother had just hit.

“It must be confusing,” James said. “He sees my brother up there first and he’s a righty and then you come up and he’s like, ‘This kid just hit, and now he’s batting lefty?’ ”

One could call them Nish squared, although the two seniors each have their nicknames on the team. Ian is called Jan. (“He had a bracelet that his girlfriend gave him and it’s supposed to say Ian but we always thought it said Jan,” explained coach Steve DeCaro.) James, meanwhile, is called Paul Bunyan, a reference, perhaps to his size, strength and beard.

Regardless of what they are called, the two Nishes are what DeCaro called “two cogs in our big wheel.”

Interestingly, the two Nishes put up similar offensive numbers during the regular season. Ian had a .400 batting average with three home runs and 26 runs batted in. James put up a .444 average, with five homers and 25 RBI.

James said, “I think he might have a little more power than me, but I don’t know, I may be a little more quicker, but we’re about the same, I have to say.”

DeCaro also appreciates their defense. “Ian at first base is just a vacuum cleaner, and he makes plays like that all the time,” he said, referring to a leaping grab Ian made in a playoff game against Port Jefferson to save a teammate from a throwing error and get the out. “Just throwing over to that big target for us is awesome, and James’ defense, he has worked real hard on that over the years. … He’s a solid left fielder right now and teams are afraid to run on him.”

Separated by 10 minutes at birth (James is the older one), the Nishes are close — and sometimes a little competitive with each other.

“Individually, I think I’m doing O.K.,” Ian said. “I feel like my brother might be doing a little better than me, which makes me a little mad.”

Ian will attend Hamilton College (N.Y.) and James is headed to Villanova. They are not sure whether they will play baseball in college or not.

Even with their high school careers winding down, the Nishes are still being used to mess with other teams.

DeCaro said, “Our favorite thing is to tell other teams that we got another set of twins named Nish coming up.”

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