Newburyport High star adapts easily to Legion style
Ryan O’Connor celebrated a Division 3 state championship in his final high school game at Newburyport on the third Saturday in June. The next day, the Clippers’ senior captain was back on the field, suiting up with the Newburyport Post 150 Legion team.
A Globe All-Scholastic selection, the lefthander was a force in Newburyport’s run to the title and a 23-5 season, compiling a 10-2 record with a 1.11 earned run average.
The fall he is off to Bentley, embarking on a whole new level of baseball. But first, he has a summer packed with competition and good friends on the Legion team.
The transition from the state tournament to summer ball is fast and physically challenging, but O’Connor has no complaints. Rather than taking a break, he jumped right into Legion games, excited to start playing with his friends from opposing high schools.
“It was tough the first couple of games back, but there is more opportunity to rest here and plenty of time to recover until you are ready,’’ said O’Connor, who limited his work the first week of the season to first base and batting fifth. On Thursday night, he allowed one hit over six innings in a 9-1 win over Gloucester. He joins Clipper teammates Brett Fontaine and Jim Conway on the Legion team.
“O’Connor came right in and did a nice job both offensively and defensively,’’ says Tim Southall, in his 13th season as the coach of Post 150. “Coming off the high school season, he was tired and needed a little rest from throwing every day. I gave him a solid week off from pitching, which really helped.’’
With additional pitching depth in Legion ball and often a four-man rotation (a stark contrast to most high school programs), Southall had the luxury of giving O’Connor time off.
And if that isn’t enough, “there are 10 guys on the team who could do it if they had to,’’ said fellow Post 150 pitcher Ryan Browner, a junior at Georgetown High.
Browner agreed with O’Connor that there is much less pressure on individual pitchers in Legion ball than at the high school level.
“The players around you are better, so you don’t have to do everything yourself. You know [your teammates] will pull through for you,’’ he says.
Southall said that the high skill level on Legion rosters make the teams, and District 8, very competitive. “All the players are too good in Legion ball; there are enough guys on the bench that can step up and play if you aren’t doing your job,’’ he said.
The Newburyport Nor’Easters have a proud history. Post 150 captured the District 8 crown in 2008, and the state title the following year.
Last summer, however, Newburyport bowed out of the playoffs early, losing to Middleton in the first round.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success but it also makes people want to beat us,’’ says Southall, who earned his 500th career win as a youth coach on June 30 against Swampscott.
“I preach to them from day one that you have to be prepared every night, because every team loves to play you and they save their number one for us.’’
Newburyport (7-2) was locked in a three-way tie for second (behind Lynn Connery) in the District 8 race with Peabody and Lawrence), just ahead of Andover and Middleton (which handed Post 150 its two loses). The Nor’Easters handed District 8 league leader Lynn Connery its lone loss with an 18-3 victory.
With one week left in the regular season, those seven clubs are in a battle for four playoff spots.
In a balanced and talented league, O’Connor said that consistency is key in the night-to-night battles. “Once we figure that out we’ll be all set,’’ he said.
“We have to stick to the basics. Good pitching and timely hitting; coming up with hits when it counts,’’ said Southall.
Last Wednesday night, Newburyport put its power on display in a 16-1 win over Danvers.
Tim Cashman started the game with a triple and scored on a single by Browner. In the third inning, Newburyport padded a 3-0 cushion to 11-0.
In all, the Nor’Easters cracked for nine extra base hits, including a two-run homer from Dylan Cain in the sixth inning.
Cashman, a senior left fielder from Triton Regional, leads the team with a .513 batting average. O’Connor (.400) is next.
Rounding out the top four hitters are J.C. Collette (.367, 10 RBIs), a senior catcher from Amesbury, and Blaise Whitman (.371, 10 RBIs), a junior third baseman also from Triton.
Southall believes in his team. “We have a lot of talent and are relatively young,’’ he said. “I expect them to make the playoffs. We’ll make a little noise, I’ll tell you that.’’
The Nor’Easters are confident that they can claim the District 8 title. “We have the winning vibe on the team,’’ said Browner.
Cat Calsolaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.