Pain is only temporary – just ask St. John’s Prep senior pitcher Pat Connaughton.
Connaughton, who missed the first two weeks of the season after spraining his left ankle moving furniture with his father, took the mound for his first start of 2011 and pitched a no-hitter as St. John’s Prep (6-1) beat Arlington 5-0 Monday.
“It was fun, I was looking forward to [the start] for a few days,” Connaughton said. “As the week progressed, I started practicing my mechanics and it worked out well. It’s the first time I’ve ever missed any games in my Prep career for any sport.”
The right-handed, Notre Dame bound hurler struck out 15 batters and walked just two, while touching 94 miles per hour on the radar gun.
“I just threw strikes,” Connaughton said. “If I can throw strikes, then it makes things more effective. I’m able to throw the ball a decent speed, and I throw more pitches because it makes the hitters more selective. If I’m not throwing my fastball for strikes, it makes it easier for them.”
Since the injury, Connaughton was working very closely and diligently with athletic trainer Matt Lovett, who is in his first season at St. John's Prep.
“There was a lot of good therapy,” Lovett said. “We were real conservative and we had him in a boot. But once he was able to start doing some stuff we did some whirlpool, some exercising and some range of motion. I would do some massaging to get the additional swelling down.”
Connaughton did not hit in the game as he is still having some trouble with lateral movement, and he sat out of Prep’s double-header with Hopkinton Tuesday.
“I told him he would be able to pitch before he was able to hit if you can stabilize it landing wise,” Lovett said. “But I don’t think he’s ready to start running the bases and I tested him Sunday and he still had a hitch in his step. He improved greatly, but still wasn’t ready for [running].”
Fortunately for the Eagles, they are done with games for the rest of the week and Lovett said they can expect to have Connaughton back full strength by Monday.
“He just works hard and it shows,” Lovett said. “If you’re able to play through a little bit of pain, I’ll do the best I can to get you back on the field. He’s just a very tough kid, and it will serve him well in the future.”
Senior catcher Tyler Coppola was behind the plate for Connaughton’s no-hitter, the first he’s ever caught and had nothing but praise for the performance.
“It was great, he was throwing right to the mitt and pounding the zone,” Coppola said. “His curveball was working and it was hard for [Arlington] to hit him.”
Coppola, who has been starting since his sophomore year, has caught Connaughton for three years.
“He’s been amazing all three years,” Coppola said. “He definitely came in this season throwing harder. He was around the high eighties as a sophomore, but now he’s just at a whole new level.”
Connaughton, an Arlington native, said that the no-hitter was not only special because it was the first of his career, but because it was against his hometown.
“When I first sprained my ankle, I kept making jokes to my friends that I was going to come back against them,” Connaughton said. “It was fun, I knew every single kid on that team. I knew a majority of the people in the stands whether it was my friends or family. It was a nice day – a perfect day for baseball.”
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