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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2013:05:02 12:02:53

Abington Heights baseball player Tyler Ksiazek winds up a pitch during a game last season.

Abington Heights baseball player Tyler Ksiazek has always wanted to be a big-time pitcher. He has always wanted to pursue his craft as long as he could and strive to reach the next level.

This time, there is some sand and water mixed in with the baseball diamond he often thought about.

Last month, the rising senior Ksiazek committed to Monmouth University in New Jersey, which fit his desire to be a Division I college player and gave him an added bonus.

“I loved the entire facility, it’s hard not to love going to school two blocks away from the beach,” Ksiazek said. “The coaches have really impressed me as a bunch of good guys.”

A baseball lifer, Ksiazek always sought to make himself a better player, having been one of those kids who dreamt about a professional baseball career as a little kid, but also having been smart enough to take things one step at a time.

“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Ksiazek said. “Coming into high school, it was really my goal at the time to be a Division I player. The dream didn’t become a reality until, probably, my sophomore year when I had some Division I interest and just kept going from there.”

Helping the Comets reach the state Class AAA semifinals in 2013 gave him a reputation for being able to handle the big moments and, as a junior in the spring, he compiled a 5-3 record with 62 strikeouts and an earned run average of 2.02 in 2014 when Abington Heights repeated as District 2 champion.

He hasn’t let his success take away from the job at hand, much to his high school coach’s delight.

“He can go from talking to you and having fun and then it’s all business when he steps out onto the field,” Comets head baseball coach Bill Zalewski said. “He’s become such a polished pitcher at such a young age, that has helped him also. He worked on his secondary pitches, he continued to get better, he didn’t settle for where he was and he continued to strive to work harder.”

But even before those two stellar seasons with the Comets, he had already gotten on the radar of college coaches with his play on a travel team.

“My overall season, before my sophomore year, I played on a 17 (year-old) team, playing among 18-year-olds and I was playing against kids that were already committed to go Division I while I was just an upcoming sophomore,” Ksiazek said. “I competed with them, and I did pretty well that the thought started to come into my head. That’s when I started getting interest from the bigger schools.”

He got a pretty good idea of what it would take to be a Division I-caliber pitcher, watching Comets teammate Dave Manasek ply his trade over the past few seasons.

“Dave and I have gotten pretty close over the past couple of years,” Ksiazek said. “Playing alongside him, being teammates with him, being on the same team, I saw what it took. I realized that once he committed to Division I, that was the level I wanted to be at. When he committed to Fordham, I realized that he was at that level and I wanted to match it so I could reach that level.”

While he has achieved his goal of being a pitcher at the highest level of play in college, he will still retain his inner drive and do his best to keep the Comets among the best teams in the Lackawanna League, District 2 and the state. Just because he has committed to Monmouth does not mean he has lost his passion for high school play.

“Every year, we aim for a district title and, beyond that, a state title,” Ksiazek said. “That’s been our goal the last few years and I know we want to keep that going and have a chance to three-peat and possibly win a state title next year, so the drive will still be there, day after day.”

That drive has carried him through his entire career,and it will be on display next spring at Abington Heights. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

In other words, going to the beach can wait.