Senior High

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jamie Hesselgesser learned that waiting for the moment was as valuable as seizing it.

Once he was lost in the shadow of pitcher Tyler Adamczyk and catcher Mike Nickeas at Westlake High.

But in his senior season, Hesselgesser carved his reputation as a steady second baseman.

He will conclude his high school career when he plays in the Bernie Milligan All-Star game today at Lancaster Municipal Stadium and in the Ventura County Coaches Assn. All-Star game Sunday at Oxnard College.

"He kind of got lost in the shuffle at the start of the year," Westlake Coach Chuck Berrington said.

Hesselgesser, once an undisciplined hitter, learned to work the count, hit with two strikes and generate runs.

His patience earned him a chance to shine.

"I always wanted to swing at the first pitch, but I developed into more of a patient hitter," he said. "You have to take pitches for the team. Sometimes you're down 0-and-2 or 1-and-2. I became a much more confident hitter with two strikes."

Hesselgesser has always faced two strikes in his goal to play NCAA Division I baseball. He possesses average ability, but his hustle and his instincts made him a key force for Westlake (25-7-1), which lost to Placentia El Dorado, 9-0, in the Southern Section Division III championship game last Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

Nickeas will play at George Tech. Adamczyk will pitch at California or sign a professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him in the seventh round.

That leaves Hesselgesser, who plans to walk on at University of San Diego.

Hesselgesser improved his prospects with a solid senior season.

"I totally changed as the year went on," he said. "I would talk to Tyler and Mike and follow their lead. I worked on my speed and defense. I wanted to become the kind of player we needed at the top of the lineup."

Hesselgesser was nearly flawless at second base, committing one error in 33 games and helping the Warriors turn 41 double plays.

He emerged as a productive leadoff hitter, batting .387 and scoring 33 runs.

"He's a self-made player," Berrington said. "He was huge for us. Nobody plays in Dodger Stadium without a good leadoff hitter or a good second baseman."

Hesselgesser learned to exploit batteries, stealing 22 bases.

"He's not stealing those bases on speed," Berrington said. "He's stealing them on smarts."

Hesselgesser also benefited from the tough touch of Berrington.

"Coach was always on me, getting on me to work even harder," he said. "He told me I could be that guy at the top of the order."

Berrington insisted Hesselgesser shore up his defense and learn to be patient at the plate.

"I used to tell him that he was the weakest link in our infield," Berrington said.

"Now I call him our strongest link."

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