CASTLETON — All it took was one year of varsity baseball at Maple Hill for Gavin Van Kempen to draw the interest from college recruiters.
Despite the small sample size, offers came rolling in from all over the country and over the weekend, Van Kempen, now a sophomore, decided to shut down the process early, verbally committing to West Virginia University.
“We are excited for Gavin and his family on his verbal commitment to WVU,” Maple Hill baseball coach Rico Frese said. “He has worked tremendously hard to earn this opportunity. Even though he is a 2022 recruit, the process was accelerated and Gavin drew recruiting interest even as a freshman.
“Gavin has drawn tremendous interest for about a year now. He pitches for the U.S. Elite team during the summer and they have provided tremendous opportunities and exposure for him.”
Frese wasn’t surprised that Van Kempen decided to pull the trigger, even though he still has two years left to play at the high school level.
“Players are giving verbals earlier and the fit was just right for Gavin at WVU. He loves the school the coaches, the facilities and it’s a Power-5 school, which is what Gavin wanted to compete in.”
Despite having his spring season and likely the summer travel season wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, Van Kempen has been keeping busy.
“Gavin has been throwing bullpens and continuing his conditioning and core work through the time away,” Frese said.
Van Kempen, who was recruited as a pitcher by WVU, saw limited mound duty as a freshman at Maple Hill, appearing in six games and finishing with a 1-0 record and a 3.23 earned run average. He allowed 10 runs (six earned) in 13 innings pitched and allowed 16 hits with 17 strikeouts and five walks.
“He is a special prospect because of his exceptional work ethic, projectability, his physical size (6-4, 185) and he already throws in the upper 80s,” Frese said. “He’s a student of the game, always working on his craft, always wants to improve.”
West Virginia had everything Van Kempen was looking for a in a school, according to Frese
“WVU has great facilities, it’s a seven-hour drive from here and they play in the Big 12 Conference,” he said. “Coach Mazey and assistant coach Sabins really connected with Gavin and he felt the fit was right.”
Frese feels Van Kempen has just scratched the surface as to how good he can be with the best yet to come.
“The sky is the limit for how good he can be,” Frese said. “He has tremendous upside and could grow a few more inches and gain some more weight before his high school career ends. It’s not inconceivable that he could be throwing in the low 90s before he graduates, plus, he plays at an exceptionally high level in the summer with his travel program, which plays in some of the best tournaments on the East Coast.
Van Kempen becomes the third Maple Hill baseball player to earn a Division I scholarship in the past 11 years, with Jaime Schultz (2009) and Tommy Miller (2015) the others.
Schultz played at High Point University in North Carolina before being selected in the 14th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He is currently still active in the Oakland Athletics organization. Miller had a solid four-year career pitching at Siena College, where he became the school’s all-time strikeout leader in 2019.
“We’ve been fortunate to be blessed with players with God-given ability, strong work ethic and all are great competitors,” Frese said. “All three are different types of pitchers.”