Pat Reilly’s spring success started with fantastic fall at Archbishop Ryan

Archbishop Ryan High School and Alumni’s Pat Reilly decided to pitch one game almost on a whim, and ended up as the season’s number 2 starter.

Ryan pitcher Pat Reilly became the №2 pitcher on a Raiders team that advanced to the Catholic League semifinals. PHOTO: PAT REILLY

Fall ball is where most players hone their craft.

For Pat Reilly, it’s where he auditioned for his new job.

During the fall, the Archbishop Ryan High School baseball team was participating in the league, which focuses more on improvement and less on winning, and it came up a pitcher short. An infielder by trade, Reilly offered to pitch in.

That game led to him being the №2 starter for the spring season.

“I remember someone asking if anyone can pitch and I said I threw before and I would do it, just to get through the game,” the senior said. “Last year, I was playing all infield, I didn’t pitch at all, but I went out and I threw really well. I had no idea I would be a pitcher this year, but it worked out.”

It worked out very well for the Raiders, who were probably the biggest surprise team in the Catholic League.

Last year, the Raiders finished 4–8 in Catholic League play and were bounced from the playoffs in the first round.

This year, things looked grim for the Raiders. The mostly underclassmen team didn’t have a lot of experience returning to the mix, and a few of the guys who were expected to be key contributors decided to sit the season out.

It looked grim, but it was the exact opposite.

Reilly stepped in as a pitcher, running support for junior All-Catholic hurler Jason Keen. The pitchers, along with the play of senior leader Dave Delvecchio, helped Ryan finish 8–4 in league play. The team knocked off Archbishop Carroll, a team that featured five Division I signees, in the quarterfinals.

The run ended last Wednesday when Ryan fell to eventual PCL champs Neumann-Goretti, 4–0, in the semifinals, but it did little to take the shine off a year nobody expected — not even the players or skipper Nick Chichilitti, who was named Catholic League Coach of the Year.

“We knew it was going to be different because we had a new coach and guys who were our best players before decided not to play,” said Reilly, who pitched two innings of scoreless relief in the loss to the Saints. “When we started to win, I think we all started to believe we could win. Then the guys who didn’t come out to play said they were jealous and wish they played.

“It was a great year because nobody thought we would do it. There were a lot of doubters. I think we started to believe early. It took kids in school a while before they knew we were having a good year. But then everybody was really happy with it. We got support.”

Reilly didn’t need much support to make himself a winner.

He started out 2–0, and finished the season 4–2 with an earned run average under 3. As the year went on, he became a more well-rounded pitcher, which helped keep his opponents guessing.

“I started out with a fastball and a curveball,” Reilly said. “I picked up a change-up because you need more than two pitches. I got a lot better. I think if I pitched more before this year, I would have been better, but it wasn’t bad for being a new pitcher.”

There’s a possibility Reilly’s pitching career, at least while representing a school, will be a one-year thing. Next year, he’s headed to Penn State, where he’ll likely major in business.

There’s a possibility he’ll try to walk on to the team, or he could end up playing club ball.

“I think if I was a pitcher for my whole career, I’d throw four or five miles an hour (faster) and I’d have more people looking at me,” Reilly said. “I could probably look at a Division III school, but I like Penn State, and I’m looking forward to going there.”

If he doesn’t play baseball, he could continue his other sport.

During the fall, Reilly golfed for Ryan. Although he enjoys hitting his spots more than hitting the greens, he knows he’ll be playing golf long after he stops playing baseball.

“I’ll miss baseball, I won’t miss golf because I can do that for the rest of my life,” Reilly said. “I’m glad I was able to do both because golf is in the fall, I didn’t have to pick.”

While Reilly moves on to college, his younger teammates move on to higher expectations. This year, nobody expected Ryan to be among the final four in the Catholic League, but next year, the experienced squad will be the hunted.

Reilly will miss playing with his teammates, but he anticipates being around the program.

“If I’m around, I’ll definitely be back,” Reilly said. “This was a great year, and it was better because nobody expected it. We went far and next year I think they’ll be good, too. I’ll be back to see them.”