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Timon baseball star Higgins taking his talents to Coastal Carolina

The old saying goes that if one has the talent to go big time, it won't go unnoticed.

Kiernan Higgins is the latest athlete to prove that there is truth in that adage.

Roughly two weeks ago, the Bishop Timon-St. Jude graduate and baseball star was set, and more than happy, to join Niagara County Community College's powerhouse program. All coach Matt Clingersmith's team did was post a runner-up finish at the junior college national tournament last month -- to go with its reputation for graduating kids to the next level.

Higgins knew that he was going to have a chance to showcase his talent in hopes of securing a Division I opportunity.

With that in mind, how did Higgins, a first team All-Catholic pitcher, wind up earning that chance sooner (over a 10-day period) rather than later and with perennial national Division I championship contender Coastal Carolina?

Higgins said an assistant coach from Fredonia saw him pitch during a summer league contest. The scout asked Higgins where he's going to school. While the coach offered to make some calls to his Division I contacts, Higgins declined it.

Kiernan Higgins went unbeaten during his senior season with Bishop Timon-St. Jude. He went from throwing in the low 80s early in the season to topping out on the radar gun at 90 mph by the end of the campaign.

That didn't stop the scout from contacting Coastal Carolina, which won the national championship in 2016.

Before Higgins knew it, longtime Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore reached out to him. Higgins said Gilmore made the trip to Buffalo to see him pitch for Royal Printing – an under-21 ABA team that consists of college and soon-to-be college players. Gilmore liked what he saw from the 6-foot-4 righty armed with a fastball that has topped out at 90 mph on the radar gun. Later that night the two hammered out the final details to secure Higgins' commitment to the program.

Higgins won't receive any athletic scholarship money but had the exceptional grades and SAT score necessary to secure academic aid -- and a chance to join the Division I ranks.

"Honestly, I get goose bumps just thinking about it," Higgins said via phone from the Conway, S.C., as he enrolled in a summer class at the school Monday with other incoming freshmen baseball players. "I can't believe how lucky I am. I am thanking God every day for receiving this opportunity."

"It's obviously the perfect example of right place at the right time but it couldn't have happened to a better kid," Timon coach Jeff Ralabate said Wednesday night.

Higgins was among the many Tigers who put in the work during the offseason to help the program post its first winning season since 2011 in the rugged Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association.

Higgins credits the workouts along with the tutoring he received from the entire Timon coaching staff, which includes assistants Rich Urbanczyk and Jehrid Steger, as being able to increase his velocity from throwing in the low 80s at the start of the season to now being able to consistently reach the 87-89 mph range.

Coach Ralabate said slowing down Higgins' mechanics and delivery aided with his control. Ralabate also said Higgins' improved mental approach played a role in him striking out 36 in 21 innings en route to posting a 4-0 record with a 1.33 earned-run average.

"It's really night and day from last year to this year," Ralabate said. "Last year, if something wasn't going his way it kind of got to him. … This year he worked on a lot of mental training, one pitch at a time. If something isn't going your way just worry about the next pitch, the next pitch is going to be your best pitch. I feel that really helped him out."

Higgins, who also throws a changeup, curve and slider, thought it would take a bit longer for him to get used to being away at college, but said he's enjoying his new surroundings.

Higgins, who will return home for a week in between the summer and fall semesters, understands that while he has an opportunity to pitch for a Division I program that there is still work that needs to be done, not just so that he reaches his full potential as a pitcher but also to represent 7-1-6 baseball with pride.

He's further proof that if one has the talent and drive, others will notice.

"Just have to come in day in and day out and keep working," Higgins said. "It's going to be a big change from balling in buffalo and not get discouraged. Hopefully I'll see the results I'm hoping to see.

"I couldn't pass up this opportunity. They won the national championship two years ago. It doesn't get better than that. I also want to make it to the next level. This is definitely the place to be."

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