By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Southborough’s Nolan Kessinger is under no misconception of the challenges yet to come.
The Algonquin Regional High baseball standout has been scouted and recruited to compete for UMass-Amherst, one of the area’s premier collegiate teams, but is fully aware that with a dozen freshmen vying for roster spots, it’s going to take everything in his baseball arsenal to crack the team’s lineup. For those who know Kessinger, admire his determination and talent as well as his leadership skills, it’s nearly impossible to find any skeptics.
“I’ve had the luxury of coaching Nolan for the past three years,” said Algonquin head coach Mike Mocerino. “He’s a competitor and a player others look up to. He has had some great years and that’s why he caught a lot of college coaches’ eyes. His intensity resonates on to his teammates and that’s why he was such a good leader this past year because he set out as a goal to make the team a close bunch.
“Nolan is smart and talented and had a great career for us. I expect him to have some great college years but not having him will be a tough loss for us next year.”
In agreement is Northborough American Legion manager Ken MacDonald.
“I think Nolan has the talent and the competitive attitude and drive to succeed at UMass next year,” he said. “I think they’re getting a great player and a great kid.”
“It’s going to be tough but I’m ready for the challenge and I’m ready to help the team win,” affirmed Kessinger. “I like the style of coaching at UMass. Their style of coaching is what I grew up with. It’s high level baseball. Academically, they have the programs I’m going to want to study. It’s such a really good school and I’m excited to have this opportunity.”
Kessinger, a standout pitcher and outfielder, has the numbers to back up the confidence vested in him. In his final year at Algonquin, he banged out 24 hits in 62 at-bats for a .387 batting average. On the mound, used mainly in relief, he compiled a 2-0 record with a 1.20 ERA to lead the Tomahawks to a 15-6 record and a share of the Midland A title.
As recently as two weeks ago, he tossed a no-hitter for Northborough Legion, striking out a lofty 14 batters en route to an 8-1 victory. Just how did he come to excel at two positions while so many would long to be as successful in just one?
“I was a lefty and wasn’t that big so I had to settle for the outfield or pitcher,” said Kessinger who credits his parents, Little League summer coach Ken Trehub and coach Mocerino as his biggest baseball influences. “Those were basically the two spots I could play. Because I’ve always had a good arm, coaches were always saying ‘hey, we’ll throw you out at pitcher and see what you can do’. I think of myself more as an outfielder who can pitch rather than a pitcher who can play outfield.”
Kessinger is also an accomplished soccer player having competed for Algonquin, but hands down, it was baseball that drew him in like a magnet.
“I’ve always had a lot of fun with baseball. I just love the nuances of the game and everything about it,” he explains. “Baseball’s always been a sport I love and love playing. I chose it because it was my favorite sport to play.
“I love all the little things of the game. Baseball can overall be sometimes a boring sport but when you have the big moments like a big hit or a big catch its special and it doesn’t need to be me. I love seeing my teammates make those big plays and seeing them get jacked up. That adrenaline is really what drives me. I live off that.”
His biggest disappointment, he admits, came in a District quarterfinal season-ending loss that suddenly marked the end of his high school playing days. Like all successful athletes, closing the door on one chapter before moving on to the next can be emotional.
“When we lost it sunk in right away because I couldn’t believe that I had to hang up the jersey for good now. I’m not going to see a lot of the high school guys again. That was the biggest part of moving on missing the guys and the coaches. It really hit me right away.”
While he is undeclared for a major at UMass, he is leaning to a possible career in biomedical science and is astute enough to recognize that his academics trump all else.
“I definitely take my studies seriously and that’s something that I’m going to work on in college because that’s what’s going to help me later on in life.”
“Nolan’s a great kid and a great competitor as well. It doesn’t matter what the score is,” MacDonald acknowledged. “He’s always going to compete hard and try to do what he has to do to help the team win. He’s always open to getting better and he’ll listen to anything he can to improve as a baseball player.
“He’s a leader on and off the field and he does a great job of leading by example really gathering the group together as a team.”