Heesch-led Sand Sharks set the bar high for the baseball program

info@islandpacket.comJune 11, 2012 

When Point Park closer Mike Tuillo shut down USC Beaufort for the final four innings nearly two weeks ago to eliminate the Sand Sharks from the Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, it brought their dream season to a close.

Bryan Lewallyn's Sand Sharks (41-19) set a school record for wins, hosted an NAIA Opening Round regional and reached the NAIA World Series in just their fourth season of competition.

But for at least one member of the team, the dream season lives on.

Senior left-hander Michael Heesch was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round of Major League Baseball's First Year Player Draft on Tuesday night.

Forget this being the next step in his baseball career. This was a childhood dream coming to life.

"I was unbelievably thrilled," Heesch said. "It's an amazing feeling to get drafted. But by your favorite team in your hometown ... ."

Growing up near Chicago, Heesch had always dreamed of pitching at Wrigley Field. On Tuesday, in a whirlwind, he found himself at Wrigley meeting key members in the organization, including general manager Theo Epstein.

Heesch agreed to terms Tuesday, including a $10,000 bonus. He'll be in Mesa, Ariz., today to take his physical, sign his contract and will join the Cubs' extended spring training.

"(It) has been an amazing year for me. It's just been a great experience," Heesch said. "I couldn't have asked for more from a senior year."

And what a senior year it was. Heesch went 9-3 with a 2.21 ERA and a school-record 118 strikeouts on his way to the Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year Award and an NAIA All-America nod.

Heesch and his teammates helped lead the Sand Sharks to a season they hope will be the standard for USCB, not the exception.

Heesch and guys like R.J. Neal, Gabe Torres, Ty Main, Dylan Nasiatka, Conald Mansfield, Brandon Collins, Colton Rudd, Kyle McCullough and lots of others made countless key plays, sacrificed their bodies, had clutch hits and pitched out of tough situations to keep the Sand Sharks' season alive.

They never gave up, and down the stretch, they refused to concede defeat, even winning the Opening Round regional in Hardeeville out of the loser's bracket on the strength of a couple of unbelievable comeback victories.

In the end, these guys laid the foundation, this year and in the previous three, for the USCB baseball program. And they set the bar pretty high.

Along the way, Heesch and his teammates helped push his dream a little closer to coming true.

"The opportunity to continue playing baseball is amazing," Heesch said. "I couldn't have made it without what we did this year. I owe a lot to my teammates, my coaches and USC Beaufort."

And USC Beaufort couldn't have done it without him.

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