Knights' Brandon Hester heating up

Stratford junior pitcher Brandon Hester has committed to play at South Carolina.

He was always taller than kids his age so it was inevitable that Brandon Hester would hear the comparison.

He was the Lowcountry's version of "The Big Unit," a nickname given to former pro pitching star Randy Johnson, who towered over his opponents in his 6-10 frame.

Today, Hester is all grown up. He's 6-7 and a star Stratford pitcher considered by some to be the top junior right-hander in the state. Hester has already committed to play at South Carolina, but for now his only goal is to help the Knights add some glory to their esteemed program.

"I heard that a lot when I was growing up," Hester said of the comparison to Johnson. "I'm tall, but I don't hear it as much as I used to. Some of the other players have caught up to me."

Hester grew up a Gamecocks fan.

"I've always been a Carolina fan," Hester said. "They started talking to me my freshman year, and I got an offer my sophomore year. They stuck with me even though things didn't go the way I wanted last year."

Hester was slowed early last season when he came down with mononucleosis. He lost nearly 30 pounds, but recovered in time to post a 4-2 record with a 2.20 ERA. He's put the weight back on and is up to 190 pounds. His high school coach, John Chalus, says Hester's ideal weight for college ball is 220.

"We have to try to get him to eat a little more and get him working out. How good he will be depends on how hard he wants to work. Sometimes, your ability in the spring is based on how hard you worked in the offseason."

Hester throws four pitches: fastball, change-up, curve and slider. He's hit 88 mph with his fastball, but has been around 85 mph this spring.

"He's adding some velocity lately," Chalus said. "He's picking up some steam. It might be because he's more of a warm-weather pitcher."

He's off to a good start this year for the Knights. He pitched a five-hit shutout against Bishop England on Tuesday night, and collected six three hits at the plate. That pushed his record to 5-0. He has an 0.86 ERA and has struck out 33 and allowed 27 hits in 32 2/3 innings of work.

The Knights are 13-4, finishing second to James Island in Region 7-AAAA. Hester isn't counting this season out, but he expects the Knights to contend for a state title in his final season as a Knight next year.

After that, it will be time to join the Gamecocks.