Thomaston's O'Neill has break out year for Eastern Connecticut
THOMASTON – Call it a break out year for Pat O’Neill.
A two-time All-BL performer for Thomaston during his high school days, O’Neill toiled at first base on the junior varsity level his freshman year at Division III national power Eastern Connecticut State University.
It was a learning year, a humbling year. Simply, there was no hint of what was to come.
“I was not doing that well at first and so I started doing a little pitching on the JV level,” said O’Neill. “Then I pitched over the summer for the Bethlehem Plowboys (Tri-State League) and did well.”
O’Neill’s switch and subsequent develop paid big dividends his sophomore season which ended last week with a loss in the NCAA Division III College World Series. When an injury opened up a spot in the rotation, O’Neill stepped in and posted a 5-1 record with a 2.77 ERA.
O’Neill was second on the team in innings pitched with 61.2 and struck out 31 while walking 15. Opponents batted just .247 against the right hander. All of which resulted in being selected to the Little Conference All-Star team.
“When our No. 2 pitcher got hurt and he was a weekend guy (ECSU plays doubleheaders on weekends) I took his spot,” said O’Neill.
The results were somewhat of a surprise.
“No one really thought that a backup JV first baseman would become an All-Conference pitcher,” said O’Neill. “I thought I would be able to pitch well and I was able to maintain it.”
O’Neill has hopped on the college learning curve and done it while achieving success.
“The big thing is to get ahead of the batters and be able to mix in you pitches at any time,’ he said. “I have three pitches – fastball, curve and changeup. I don’t overpower batters but try to keep them off-balance. Coach has also emphasized getting the leadoff batter out. The percentage of first batters who reach base and score is like 90 percent.”
O’Neill’s and ECSU’s up season ended on a down note May 15. O’Neill took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning and then was nicked for four runs including a two-run home run before being removed after 96 pitches.
“I had the first guy 1-2 and thought my fastball was borderline,” commented O’Neill. “The call threw me and then I then left a curve ball up and the batter got it. It was really my only bad pitch.”
O’Neill is hoping to be the Warriors’ No. 1 next season – “That’s my mentality,” he said.
There are a lot of spots open with most of the Warriors’ staff graduating.
“I’ve always been confident and my expectations are high,” he said. “I want to be able to make less mistakes and be the best I can be. I want to be No. 1.”
He is back with the Plowboys this summer and will continue to train for the next campaign. O’Neill had a breakout year this year. Next year he hopes and expects ever better.”