WALTHAM – For the Bentley University baseball team, the biggest concern coming into the 2014 season was pitching, given that the team had graduated most of its staff from a 27-22 season.
Newburyport’s Ryan O’Connor has emerged as the Falcons’ unlikely answer. O’Connor is the only returning starter who saw significant action last year, going 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 10 appearances (53 innings).
A shoulder injury ruined O’Connor’s freshman season and he still felt the effects last year. It’s not as if the coaching staff and his teammates pinned this season’s hopes on him. He has just simply delivered with aplomb.
O’Connor is 4-2 – he’s won four straight games – with a 1.80 ERA and 43 strikeouts (opposed to 12 walks) over 45 innings. He is among Northeast-10 Conference leaders in a host of categories.
O’Connor’s breakthrough is emblematic of Bentley’s season: The Falcons (16-10), picked to place fifth in the NE-10 Northeast Division preseason poll, opened the season 1-7 and have won 15 of 18 since. They sit atop the NE-10 with an 8-1 divisional record.
No one, not O’Connor or 46th-year head coach Bob DeFelice, knows what to make of it. Bentley just keeps on winning and they’re having the time of their lives.
“It’s funny. Obviously we had a tough start. We have 12 freshmen. Everyone was just trying to figure things out,” O’Connor said. “I think the biggest thing is that we all get along really well. Everyone has gelled and I think it has helped us win games that otherwise I don’t think we would’ve won.”
Also enjoying the Falcons’ season is Mike O’Connor, father of Ryan and a standout catcher at Bentley from 1982-84 before he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round. He watched his son win the 2011 MIAA Division III state title at Newburyport High School. For a parent, it doesn’t get much better than that.