Boston High School: Ryan O'Connor

Recap: Burncoat 13, Worcester Tech 4

April, 6, 2012
Regan AghdamBrendan Hall/ Rhode Island commit Regan Aghdam (three hits, two runs) was part of a 15-hit parade for Burncoat in a Friday morning win over Worcester Tech.
WORCESTER, Mass. -- One inning meant all the difference for a seasoned Burncoat boys' baseball team on Friday afternoon.

After battling with Worcester Tech for five innings, the senior-laden Patriots (4-0) burst out for eight runs in the sixth to help put away their crosstown host, 13-4.

“Their pitcher did an awesome job of (pitching) different speeds,” said Burncoat coach Brian Sargent. “We went through the order (that inning). We made them make plays or not make plays.”

Returning 11 seniors from a team that had reached the Division I central semi-finals last year, the Patriot upperclassmen stormed through the sixth inning with ten knocks. Planting a pair of long drives a few yards out of reach for their opponents and capitalizing on six total errors, Burncoat began the run with nine straight hits.

A frozen rope left-field single by Ryan O'Connor started the scoring for the Patriots, while a dropped pop fly hit from Regan Aghdam and a low slicing drive by Sean McGrail put the Inter-High League sluggers up 10-0.

“Seeing first pitch strikes,” said Sargent. “They were kind of waiting for the curveball and different stuff. Just get up in the box and swing.”

Worcester Tech (0-3) responded in their next at bat by putting the first seven batters on base, but were unable to topple such a large deficit. Short outfield singles by senior Jake Dacri, junior Brenden Matthews, and sophomore Brandon Hanlon loaded the bases early for the Eagles.

A thrown away pitch and a left outfield dribbler by junior Anthony Rovezzi helped clear the plates for a 10-3 deficit. A double RBI by senior John Lakaitis in two at bats proved the Inter-High clubs final run.

“Not catching a few fly ball, a couple mental mistakes here and there, and us not getting the key hits when we needed them,” said first-year Worcester Tech coach Patrick McKeon. “I told them to 'Stay aggressive and go up to get your swings. We just could not get the runs across in the last inning.”

O'Connor (RBI, one run), Aghdam (two runs), and senior Joe McCarthy (RBI) all had three hits for Burncoat. Fellow upperclassmen Charles Barbon, who lead the Patriots with a .532 average last year, was perfect at the plate with four singles and two runs.

“We were trying to go the other way so we did not get in front of the ball,” said Aghdam. “Let the ball travel.”

A botched throwout at first, an on-the-wall triple by senior Quinn Moynihan and a powerful single by Aghbam added three runs of insurance in the Patriots' final at bat.

Burncoat had edged ahead 2-0 earlier off a low-driving double from senior Ryan O'Connor in the fourth to bring home Aghdam and a ground-out to first with two runners on by senior Quinn Moynihand in the fifth.

“I got three straight curves and a fastball,” said Aghdam. “I was trying to not do too much and let the ball travel. We had to wake up sometime.”

Senior starting pitcher Sean McGrail went six innings with five strikeouts for the win for Burncoat, while giving up four runs, sevens walks and 11 hits. Eagles senior Andrew Montiverdi battled six innings for five strikeouts, while dropping 15 hits, 12 runs, and three walks.

“Mentally (McGrail) knows he has to get outs,” said Sargent. “He walked a lot today, but he knew just to hold off and give our offense a chance.”

At long last, Pettingell goes out a champion

June, 18, 2011
LYNN, Mass. -- It only took 40 years, but Newburyport baseball coach Bill Pettingell finally won a state championship.

Poetically, it came on the final day of his coaching career.

His team beat Pioneer Valley Regional 9-4 Saturday at Fraser Field to take home the Division 3 Championship and end his 616-win career.

“I’ve lived the dream for 40 years, when I came to Newburyport to start doing this with baseball,” he said. “Our kids are throw-backs to 15-20 years ago that every kid wants to be on this team, even the kids that didn’t start. It was one of the more inexperienced teams I had coming into the season, but you knew that we had kids that wanted to be there. We were 5-4 at one time during the season, and now we’re 23-5, that says something about these kids.”

Things did not come easy for the Clippers Saturday, regardless of what the score said. In the top of the first, Casey Blanchard singled off Brett Fontaine, and moved up to second after a balk. With a Kyle Platner single and a fielding error charged to first baseman Ryan O’Connor, Newburyport was trailing after the first inning.

They stormed back however, with two runs in the bottom of the second with two hits, including a 2 RBI single to center by Dave Cusack. It added five more runs over the next two innings, forcing Pioneer coach Thomas Conway to take Platner off the mound after 4.1 innings.

Having a five run lead was extremely beneficial to Fontaine, who admittedly did not have his best performance of the season. The junior righthander was called for two balks and had a three wild pitches Saturday.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” said Fontaine, who finished the season 11-1 with the victory. “I just battled through it and tried to let my defense make a lot of plays.”

Pioneer (18-8) came back and added two runs in the top of the fifth to make it 7-4 with two innings to go. In the sixth, Fontaine walked two of the first three batters and surrendered a single to Nick Peduzzi, loading the bases. The three-run lead appeared to be in jeopardy, but Fontaine struck out Jordan Stempel and got Blanchard to fly to left to get out of the jam.

Feeling the lead was not safe, the Clippers added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, bringing the lead back up to five. All Fontaine needed was three more outs and the championship was Newburyport’s.

“We came into the season knowing this was Coach’s last season and we know he’s won the Cape Ann League, the sectional tournaments, and we all wanted to win today,” said Fontaine. “This state tournament has to mean the world, it’s his first one. I know he loves it.”

Fontaine ended the game throwing seven innings, giving up nine hits, two walks, and six strikeouts.

Pettingell admitted after the game that if things did not go his way Saturday, he still would have considered his career a success.

“If this is the first day of practice and you say, ‘Cape Ann League or state title? One or the other?’ I’d take the Cape Ann League title,” he said. “That’s the way I have always been and I always thought the tournament as a great reward for a season. That’s just the way I am, I’m a league person.

“People keep saying, ‘You’re crazy, why would you say that?’ because that’s me. Most people wouldn’t say that, most people don’t believe that, but I sincerely, honest to God believe the Cape Ann League title is what we start the season to win, and anything else that happens is gravy.”

He continued, “To win the state championship, it was like scripted. These kids, I don’t know if they played a little extra hard this year and more emotionally because they knew I was retiring. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the finality of this but all I know is I’ve had some great teams but nobody played as well under fire over six straight (tournament) games.”

Whether it played harder for Pettingell this season or not, they sent him off the way any coach would like to go.

A champion.

O'Connor hurls Newburyport into D3 state final

June, 15, 2011

LYNN, Mass. -- The swan song for Bill Pettingell continues.

His Division 3 North champion Newburyport knocked out Apponequet with a 4-1, win in the Div. 3 state semifinals on Wednesday night at Fraser Field.

Pettingell has seen a lot of lefty pitchers come through his program in his 40 years as head coach of the Clippers, but there might not be any better than the way Ryan O’Connor has pitched this season. With his 13 strikeouts in a three-hit, complete-game victory, O’Connor set a single season school record for Newburyport (22-5) with 122 K’s this season.

“He set a single season for a Newburyport player, so I guess we haven’t had someone in that category then,” Pettingell said with a chuckle when he was asked of O’Connor’s place among Clippers left-handed starters.

Newburyport will look to send off Pettingell with his first state title on Saturday in Lynn, when the Clippers face Pioneer for the state title.

O’Connor was strong in the opening innings with a mixture of his two potent breaking balls. The lefty throws a slider and curveball, and through the first two innings he fanned five out of six Lakers (16-5) with a mixture of both.

The Clippers starter did strike out the side in the top of the third, but his three walks and a RBI single from Nick Cogliano tied the game at 1, after the Clippers’ Dave Cusack scored on a wild pitch in the home half of the first.

O’Connor got into a bases loaded jam in that third inning after the tying single, but he got Dan Depippo looking to get out of the jam.

“I threw a lot of balls in the beginning of the at-bats too, so I put more pressure on myself,” said O’Connor.

Brett Fontaine helped relieve some of that pressure in another bases loaded jam in the top of the fifth. Fontaine collected a hard-hit ground ball by Depippo on a hop and he fired over to first to strand three.

“I wasn’t too good today at some points, but I got it over when I needed to and the guys behind me picked me up,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor hit a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth to chase Lakers’ starter Josh Fickert (4.1 IP, two earned runs, four walks, three strikeouts). Matt Mottola legged out an infield single to set up first and second with one down against the Lakers' reliever.

Jim Conway hit a grounder to the hole in short and the shortstop's throw could not be handled by the first baseman, allowing O’Connor to come home for the go-ahead run. Drew Carter hit an opposite field single over the outstretched arm of the first baseman to plate Mottola, but Conway was thrown out at home trying to score.

“We scrounge for runs,” said Pettingell. “We find a way to move runners along. We do a lot of hit and runs that people don’t notice, and then we get a few dinkers in there. We got some nice clutch hits.”

The Clippers got one more in their last ups when Ryan Clark scored on a wild pitch.

Newburyport wins first sectional title in 15 years

June, 11, 2011
LOWELL, Mass. -- Bill Pettingell has been at the helm of Newburyport High School baseball for 40 years, with over 600 wins, but has never won a state championship. Could this year, his last as coach, finally be the one?

That remains to be seen, but his team took one step closer Saturday with a 3-1 victory over St. Mary’s in the Division 3 North Finals.

“Knowing this is Coach Pettingell’s last year and all the tough games that he’s lost over the years, it feels great to get him this win,” said Brett Fontaine, who pitched a complete game for the Clippers.

All his team needed was a three-run fourth inning to get the victory. It was the first time since 1996 that Newburyport (21-5) has won a sectional title.

“Maybe it’s destiny (that we win State),” said Pettingell. “I know the South is loaded with some good teams. We take nothing for granted. I’m taking it one at a time. This is our fourth North title and we were a whisker away from winning the State title twice. Maybe this is the year, I don’t know.”

Prior to the fourth, Matt Turmenne had three consecutive 1-2-3 innings to retire the Newburyport lineup. After walking Colby Morris and giving up a single to Ryan O’Connor, Fontaine singled home both for the first runs of the game. After stealing second, O’Connor scored when Zach Conti, the shortstop, overthrew first base on a routine ground ball.

Newburyport moves on to face the winner of the Middleborough-Apponequet D3 South final, which had to be rescheduled from Saturday due to rain. St. Mary’s (16-8) has not won a sectional championship since 1988.

Fontaine never had an inning when he faced more than four hitters until the sixth, which was coincidentally the only inning he gave up a run. While he was able to have economic innings, he was not overpowering on the mound. He notched only three strikeouts over seven innings, but was able to use his defense to get the outs he needed. Ten of the necessary twenty-one outs were ground ball outs.

“I’m not a strikeout guy, I’m going to focus on my defense,” he said. “Them making plays just makes the game go by much easier.

Fontaine is usually the team’s shortstop. He is 10-1 on the season as a pitcher and coming into the game, had an 0.83 ERA coming into the game.

“We had two really great starting pitchers going today,” said Pettingell. “We played great defense, especially in the infield. The most improved part of our game is in the outfield. We made a lot of great catches out there today, in the tournament, and coming down the stretch.”

“They were everything we expected and I assume we were everything they expected. We’re very similar teams, we’re both good teams and both deserved to be here.”