Righthander capitalizes on rare start
Pat O’Leary was starting games a season ago for the County College of Morris. The righthander transferred to Rutgers this year, but he knew becoming a starter on the baseball team would not be as easy as it was with the 8,700-student Division-II school.
Because of injury, O’Leary got the opportunity April 4 against Columbia, April 10 against Fordham and again yesterday against Monmouth in West Long Branch, N.J.
“You can never have too much depth in the pitching staff,” said head coach Fred Hill in a statement. “O’Leary worked some out of the bullpen earlier this season and showed us enough to deserve a midweek start at Columbia.”
After his first two starts in which the junior pitched no more than 5 1/3 innings, O’Leary took advantage of his 6 1/3 innings to allow one run in the Scarlet Knights’ 8-1 win against Monmouth (22-15).
“I feel more comfortable in that role, actually,” O’Leary said. “For some reason, my first [inning] was a little rough. I think starting gives me the opportunity to move past that.”
O’Leary (2-0) pitched three perfect innings in the second, fourth and fifth innings. His consecutive 1-2-3 innings led him to retire eight in a row during his stretch of five no-hit innings.
The righty said giving up an early hit helped him mentally get through his no-hit stretch.
“Ever since high school, I’ve been like that,” O’Leary said of attempting no-hitters. “After that inning, I stopped thinking about that and moved on.”
The Knights (20-15, 7-5) lineup took it from there, and much of it came from the bats of junior rightfielder Steve Zavala and junior first baseman Bill Hoermann, who combined to record all six of Rutgers’ RBI.
“If the [Nos.] 5 and 6 spots are hot, it takes the pressure off of everybody else,” Zavala said. “If three or four guys don’t get the job done, it’s not like nobody will.”
Zavala tallied his third RBI of the game by scoring junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan.
Junior catcher Jeff Melillo scored the first run of the three-run, five-hit inning from third base on an error from Monmouth shortstop Jon Guida.
Following his first victory with Rutgers in a 15-4 victory against Fordham on April 10, the Knights had no problem giving O’Leary early run support.
The first inning was not quite like Rutgers’ eight-run second inning against the Rams, but the three-run first set the righty up for the victory.
Zavala singled to left center and scored sophomore centerfielder Brian O’Grady and sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella — both recorded the first two of Rutgers’ 18 hits, tied for a season high.
“Our hitters had a good approach today,” Hill said. “They waited for their pitches and really put some good swings on the ball. … I feel like we have a lot of guys who can really swing it on our team. It is all about working to get your pitch in the right count.”