The arm that clinched the last two Division I high school baseball championships is headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Rice senior Will Hesslink, the ace left-handed pitcher who helped the Green Knights end a 50-year title drought with back-to-back Vermont crowns, announced on Twitter last week that he had committed to continue his career at Boston College.
Reached on Thursday, the 17-year-old said the Eagles were one of roughly 10 Division I programs that had expressed interest over the last several months.
The coaching staff got its first glimpse of Hesslink in early June and the pursuit sped up in recent weeks after he visited the Chestnut Hill campus, he said.
“Then everything started to move pretty fast,” Hesslink said.
“Mainly just the combination of academics, which is very good — Boston College has a great reputation for that — and the baseball piece too,” he said. “They’re in the ACC, which is a great conference. It seems like a good fit for me.”
On the shortlist of Vermont’s top pitchers the past two seasons, Hesslink said his delivery and fluidity with his three-pitch arsenal (fastball, changeup, slider) were what attracted college coaches.
“Being a left-handed pitcher is big — Not many people are. It’s a commodity in baseball,” Hesslink said. “That was a big thing. And the ability for me to mix up my pitches well and keep guys off balance was big for most of the colleges.”
After a breakout sophomore season for the Green Knights, Hesslink gained exposure last autumn playing with the North East Baseball, a Massachusetts player-development program.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound southpaw picked up right where he left off this spring, posting a sub-1 ERA and leading the Metro Division in strikeouts (68) during the regular season. He capped his junior campaign by tossing a complete-game four-hitter against Champlain Valley in the state final, fanning 12 batters — striking out the side in the seventh and eighth innings — in a 5-2 victory.
In addition to playing with the North East Baseball outfit, Hesslink said he’s managed to add 6 to 7 mph to his fastball since beginning to train with Joey Besl of Premier Strength and Performance in January.
“I was just trying to get into the best shape I could, some more velocity and just a better build in general,” Hesslink said. “We had the same goals of what we wanted to happen. It’s been great results.”
Hesslink, who also plays ice hockey in the winter, said he plans to enroll at Boston College in the fall of 2017 after taking a post-grad year of prep school to “get ready for the college experience and grow a little more athletically, too.”