Ryan’s Brennan Hatala calm and cool as Raiders’ closer

Hatala’s method is to not think too much about the game. “I just go out and throw.”

Brennan Hatala doesn’t worry about being the closer. He just goes out and pitches. PHOTO: BRENNAN HATALA

Some players wither under pressure.

Brennan Hatala thrives under it.

Hatala is a junior on the Archbishop Ryan High School baseball team, and it’s that attitude that makes him perfect for the team’s closer role. Why is he so good at it? Not even he can explain it.

“I pitch better under pressure,” said Hatala, who has two wins and two saves to his credit. “I don’t really think about it much. I just go out and throw. It seems I do better when the game is on the line.

“During the game, for the most part, I just sit there and watch. As soon as they tell me to get ready, I start to get ready. I don’t think much about it until they tell me to warm up. Then I just go out there and throw and get mentally prepared to play.”

His right arm is helping the Raiders to an improbable season.

Last year, Ryan won four Catholic League games and finished out of the playoffs. This year, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Nick Chichilitti, the Raiders are 7–3, one game out of first place behind Neumann-Goretti in the always-competitive league.

A week ago, the Raiders enjoyed a great week, besting Archbishop Carroll, which was in first place at the time, 1–0, and following that up with a come-from-behind 7–6 victory over Father Judge.

The team has two games remaining — Wednesday, it travels to La Salle to meet the Explorers, and then it closes the regular season with a home game against Bishop McDevitt, which is winless on the season.

With a young team, few expected Ryan to make noise this year. Even the players weren’t sure what to expect. But now that they’re playing winning baseball, the Raiders believe they could make a run.

“I don’t think anyone expected us to be in first place,” Hatala said. “I played (junior varsity) last year so I didn’t know how good we’d be. But it’s been working.”

Hatala’s pitching has been clutch. He maintains a 1.75 ERA and has yet to blow a save.

The Raiders really don’t have one standout player whom the team can rely on. It seems like they have a new hero each game.

The team-effort approach has paid dividends.

“I think I am better off because I played JV last year,” Hatala said. “We learned a lot and this year we’re learning more. We are all playing for nothing but to win. The new guys, the guys who were here and the coaches all want the same thing. We all want to win.”

After the school year, Hatala will continue to work hard on the field.

He plays baseball as much as he can, but when he’s not improving his mechanics, he’ll be doing a different kind of yard work.

“I mow lawns in the summer,” Hatala said. “It’s a tough job, but it pays well, so that’s good. You do work hard when you’re doing it because it’s hot and you’re always moving. But I like it. It’s pretty good money.”

That’s not the only place he’ll work hard.

“I think I’m going to work as a maintenance guy at Ryan,” Hatala said. “That will be pretty fun. I like doing things like that.”

Before he works at the school, he wants to work for a Catholic League championship.

The Raiders have a young squad — there are just five seniors on the roster — but that doesn’t mean the team will be satisfied to just make the playoffs, even though Ryan hasn’t competed in the tournament since 2013.

“You never know what will happen, so if you have a chance to win, you have to work hard and try to win it,” Hatala said. “We are playing well as a team. If we keep doing that, we have a chance.”