NORTH STONINGTON — Ken Turner has made all the right moves every step of the way in his youth and scholastic athletic career, starting at Pawcatuck Little League and ending as Class M All-State as a Ledyard High baseball pitcher this spring.
So when the 6-foot-4 right-hander bypassed the opportunity to play pro baseball in June as the Texas Rangers' 20th-round draft pick in favor of honoring his scholarship offer to the University of Hartford, few questioned his decision.
Turner's outstanding first half to his senior season earned him All-State honors and led the Colonels to their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the GameTimeCT state poll. Included in his impressive streak were a no-hitter of eventual state champion Waterford and strikeout games of 16, 15 and 14.
A second-half back injury curtailed his production, but his April and early May dominance was impressive enough to earn respect from MLB teams in the June draft. Turner, however, believes he'll get a second opportunity to play pro ball when he's eligible to be drafted again after his junior year at Hartford.
"I felt that it was better for me to develop my skills and get stronger at the college level as well as get years of school done at the same age as my peers," Turner said in an email. "... I'm hoping to go to school for three years and enter the draft again when I am 21 with a couple of years of school under my belt to officially pursue my dream of being a professional baseball player."
At Ledyard, Turner played for coach Scott Chiasson, who played parts of two season in the major leagues as a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs. Turner's performance this season outshined anything Chiasson accomplished in his amateur career, according to the coach.
At one point, Turner was 4-0. In 28 innings pitched, he had allowed just six hits, seven walks, no earned runs and struck out 52.
"Ken was nothing short of lights out," Chiasson said. "His fastball was touching 90 and his curve was dropping off a table. He had complete command of all of his pitches."
Turner allowed his first earned run in a loss to East Lyme, a game in which he tweaked his back and caused him to miss a few weeks. He came back to finish the season, although Ledyard, which finished 17-3 in the regular season, was eliminated in its quest to win an ECC Tournament and Class M state championship.
Turner has spent the summer in training to recover from the back ailment.
"I was playing with the Bristol Blues in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, but right now I am just training and getting back in shape because I hurt my back and was shut down for the summer by my coaches at Hartford," he said. "The spring was a great time. I loved the team and how everyone contributed to our team's success. I went out with an injury and missed about a month but the team saw no setback as the next man stepped up and filled the role."
In Turner's absence this past spring, Colonels No. 2 pitcher Cade Walters threw three no-hitters. The two became best friends after Turner, a North Stonington native, decided to attend Ledyard as an agri-science and technology student after playing at Wheeler Middle School.
Turner was one of the ECC's top three-sport athletes at Ledyard. He was a 1,000-point basketball scorer, averaging 20 points per game as a senior forward, and he also started at goalkeeper for the soccer team.
"Ledyard was a great fit for me socially and a place where I felt I fit in," Turner said. "The other sports helped me prepare for the baseball season because I was in good shape from soccer and basketball."