NORTH STONINGTON — Kyle Kessler's value to the Wheeler High baseball team and his reputation as a player around the ECC show how misleading statistics can sometimes be in sports.
The freshman shortstop batted just .225 for the Lions yet made the ECC North first team. It was no surprise to Wheeler coach Eric Collins, who called Kessler one of the finest fielders he's ever coached.
"He was a shoe-in for All-ECC," Collins said. "Opposing coaches raved about his fielding ability, which is rare at the high school level. He covered a lot of ground, has soft hands and a good arm. Little bouncers that would go for infield hits in years past, he'd race in, scoop the ball and throw the runner out by two steps."
Collins said Kessler was batting around .300 until getting into a slump in which he chased bad pitches. Offensively, he did lead Wheeler with four extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples) and 13 runs scored.
"I expect Kyle to hit over .400, close to .500 by the time he graduates," Collins said. "He's just a good baseball player, the type of player you can build a team around."
The future looks bright for Wheeler, which started six freshmen, including two top pitchers on a 3-13 team. The Lions had the bad timing of rebuilding a team with no seasoned seniors during a spring that featured an unusually strong schedule. The slate included a pair of ECC North games apiece against eventual ECC tourney champ Killingly, Plainfield and Woodstock.
"It wasn't the usual ECC Division IV schedule that Wheeler plays," Collins said. "We had to stick to our ECC North bubble and played some larger schools instead of scheduling nonleague games against smaller teams."
Spencer Reichart made the ECC sportsmanship team. Junior Matt Pierce, who hit .438 (19 for 44) was named to the ECC scholar-athlete list.