With a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s and a powerful bat capable of hitting any ball out of the park, Chad Knight received attention from college coaches before he even made his first appearance at the high school level.

Used to the attention from leading Westport to the brink of a Little League World Series title, Knight was mature enough as a player and person to handle college offers at such a young age. Once he got the offer he was waiting for, he didn’t hesitate.

Knight — who is the No. 13 ranked right handed pitcher in the country, and the No. 1 pitcher and player in the state in his class, according to Perfect Game’s rankings — gave a verbal commitment to Duke to play for the Blue Devils when he graduates in 2019.

“I had a good relationship with the (Duke) coaches for about a year,” Knight said. “Duke felt like a perfect place academically and as a baseball player. It has an atmosphere where you can be respected as an athlete without sacrificing being a student. That was what I was looking for.”

A strong season for Staples and an even better summer on the travel circuit confirmed Knight was ready to compete at the collegiate level.

“He had a great spring and a great summer and my cell phone was ringing off the hook in May,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “From that point on I knew he was probably going to commit. When you get a great opportunity to go to Duke with his skill set and academic background, it’s just a home run.”

With several other standouts at Staples it was unclear where Knight would fit to begin the season, but it wasn’t long until he was the focal point. Batting in the middle of the lineup and eating up innings on the mound, the “Dark Knight” — as McFarland calls him — settled into a key role.

His first pitching assignment for the Wreckers wasn’t the easiest. The Wreckers’ second game of the season was against then three-time defending Class LL champion Amity, which would add a fourth straight later in the spring. McFarland said Knight wanted the ball — and though the 5-1 defeat wasn’t the end result either hoped for — and deserved the chance to take on the state giants.

“I always love competing against the best,” Knight said. “I was looking forward to that start and it was going to be a good test of my ability as a freshman. They have a great teeam with a deep lineup and great coach. Even though that was my first high school start I think it was a good experience to know it’s going to be a really competitive season.”

There were plenty of highlights for Knight along the way, including a 5-for-5 hitting performance in the Wreckers’ Class LL first round win over Ridgefield. In 22 games last season, Knight hit .358 with three home runs, five doubles, two triples and 28 runs batted in. He led the team in hits, extra base hits and RBIs.

It was a bigger adjustment on the mound competing against athletes who were multiple years older than him. He went 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 22 innings. Knight said by the end of the season he was much more comfortable dealing with the pressure of starting as a freshman.

“Throughout the season I was able control my nerves a little bit more,” Knight said. “From the beginning against Amity until the end I feel like I was focused more and worried less about my personal goals and worried more about the team’s overall goals.”

Following the season with the Wreckers, Knight competed with the Georgia Jackets U16 team - one of the top travel groups in the country that is comprised of all players from Georgia besides Knight. He spent the summer in Georgia and Florida competing in showcases; Duke noticed him there and eventually extended an offer.

Knight will join Nate Panzer (Maryland, 2016) and Ben Casparius (North Carolina, 2017) as Wreckers headed to play in the ACC.

“It’s great,” McFarland said. “They all have one thing in common: they’re great kids and they work very hard at what they do. Chad just follows in the line; he’s very goal orientated and a great leader, and it shows with his performance on the field.”

Until then, Knight will continue the grind that includes daily workouts. Captain’s practices for Staples baseball also begin next week.

“I love that I know Duke is the school I’m committed to, but that doesn’t mean I’m not taking any foot off the gas from working hard,” Knight said. “It’s really only motivation for me to work harder to become the best I can be, both academically and as a baseball player.”