CLINTON TWP. — Lackawanna Trail’s Nate Rolka has made his college decision before even throwing a pitch during his junior year of high school.
Rolka, who has been a key contributor on the Lions baseball team since his freshman year, verbally committed to continue his academic and athletic careers at the University of Delaware.
The Blue Hens compete in the Division 1 Colonial Athletic Association.
“They have a great baseball program and I really felt like I had a connection with the coaches,” Rolka said. “They were really easy to talk to and they made me feel very welcome.
“When I went for my visit, I really liked the campus a lot. It was really nice and very picturesque.”
Rolka also made visits to Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and Seton Hall.
Lackawanna Trail head coach Todd Peters believes Rolka’s strong work ethic has played a big role in his success.
“He has a desire to get better at everything he does,” Peters said. “He knows what he has to do and is willing to put the time in. He works hard in the gym between football and baseball, to get himself stronger, and that has increased his velocity.
“He’s one of the hardest-throwing kids in the (Lackawanna) League right now and he didn’t even start his junior year of varsity baseball, so that’s pretty impressive.”
Rolka said he threw in the 88-91 miles per hour range throughout the past summer.
Peters has been impressed with Rolka’s maturity at a young age.
“We put a lot on him as a freshman,” Peters said. “He was the kid we rolled out there for our big games. Mentally, that can really hamper a kid, but he took the challenge. He went out there and accepted what he had to do.”
Rolka is thankful for the encouragement and guidance from Peters and assistant coach Jon Hickok.
“(They) have been really supportive and they’ve really helped my development a lot,” he said. “There have been highs and lows, but they’ve always supported me and believed in me through it all, and I think that’s really helped me out the most.”
The Dalton resident also believes playing for the Baseball U PA travel baseball organization over the past four years has helped him become a Division 1 prospect.
“The coaching is second to none,” Rolka said. “I really feel like I wouldn’t be where I am today without those coaches, especially (Mike) Guy, (Justin) Stevens and (Trevor) Tellip; they’ve really helped a lot with the mechanical stuff.
“In travel baseball, we play some great competition and I feel like that also helps elevate my game.”
Peters thinks the commitment will allow Rolka to loosen up and pitch to the best of his potential.
“As a sophomore, he had Division 1 interest and that puts a lot of pressure on a young kid,” Peters said. “This year, now that he has that out of the way, he can relax a little bit and I’m really looking forward to seeing him go out there and be that really dominant kid on the mound.”
Rolka agreed that committing early is a big relief and will allow him to dedicate more time to improving as a pitcher.
“The recruiting process is fun, but it can get a bit stressful at times,” he said. “(Now), I can just focus on playing and my development. It’s a huge weight off my back.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.