Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2007

Keegan: Lawrence boys hit big time

August 18, 2007


Local sluggers headed to major conferences

Lawrence High and Free State High will each have alums playing baseball in major conferences at the division one level next season. Enlarge video

Scott Heitshusen, one of the key members of Free State High's 2006 state championship baseball team, was looking forward to returning to Hutchinson Community College for his sophomore season.

Nick DeBiasse, football and baseball star at Lawrence High and valedictorian of the Class of 2007, was looking forward to playing for the University of Arizona baseball team as a preferred walk-on.

Instead, Heitshusen will be at Michigan State University by the middle of next week on a partial baseball scholarship. DeBiasse will play for Rice University's baseball team on a partial ride.

Such is life in college baseball. Scholarship money that wasn't there yesterday surfaces today because a player signs with a major-league organization.

DeBiasse already was at Arizona for two days. He received a call from a Rice coach Thursday, accepted the offer, flew home that night, and plans to drive to Houston today with his father.

For Heitshusen, the call came in midsummer. Recommended to the Madison Mallards of the prestigious Northwoods wood-bat summer league by Kyle Crookes, his coach at Hutch, Heitshusen's summer performance prompted the Michigan State coaching staff to pull the trigger now, instead of waiting another year. The Spartans, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas had been in touch with him about coming after his sophomore season, Heitshusen said. Michigan State jumped the others by a year.

"I was shocked," Heitshusen said. "Going up to the Northwoods League, you get so much exposure it's ridiculous."

Heitshusen stayed with his Uncle Bob, who lives in a suburb of Madison, and had a blast pitching for the Mallards. The club drew an average of more than 6,000 spectators a night, highly unusual for a summer college league. The organization is noted for its wacky in-game promotions.

"The highest crowd was 7,500," Heitshusen said. "It was a good atmosphere to play in. Obviously, it was fun. The first night I went up there, the game went into extra innings, I threw the last two innings and got the win. It's definitely kind of nerve-racking, but you get used to it. You adapt to the surroundings. You're playing a baseball game, but the game is not the main attraction. The coaches described it as a circus around it with the baseball game in the middle."

Heitshusen said he started the summer as a reliever, moved into the starting rotation and received the offer two days after Michigan State coaches saw him in a strong six-inning outing. He wanted to visit the school but wasn't able to because the Mallards "had a game every day."

One of his Mallards teammates played at Michigan State.

"I started asking him all kinds of questions, making sure it's the right situation for me," Heitshusen said. "I talked to all the coaches and asked them questions. It's a really good situation for me. The offer was the best I've received by a longshot. It's kind of crazy how things progressed. It's been kind of a whirlwind."

Not compared to DeBiasse's last few days.

DeBiasse's path to Rice is similar to high school teammate Daniel Parker's road to the University of Illinois, except that Parker's reverse happened in early June. Parker was set to attend Creighton University as a preferred walk-on until Illinois offered a partial scholarship.

It's been a lucrative summer for young Lawrence baseball stars.


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