DISTRICT 2 BASEBALL: West Scranton’s Connor Pins Down Opposing Batters
Whether it’s on the wrestling mat or the pitcher’s mound, Tyler Connor is a tough competitor.
The senior righthander emerged this season as the ace for the West Scranton baseball team. He accounted for half of the Invaders’ eight wins and ranks among the leaders in Lackawanna Division I in earned-run average (1.66) and strikeouts (45).
“He’s been my go-to guy this year,” West Scranton coach Brian Minnich said. “He wants to pitch every opportunity he can and when he has, he’s delivered.
“He’s a smaller guy (5-foot-9), but the biggest competitor I’ve ever coached. He’s a horse on the mound.”
By his own admission, Connor won’t light up the radar gun; his fastball reaches only mid-to-high 70s. So, he relies on his offspeed pitches, mainly his curveball, to perplex opposing batters.
“I keep the hitters guessing all the time, never knowing what’s coming next,” Connor said. “Fastball, curveball, changeup — keep them on their toes all the time.
“A lot of guys know I throw curveballs a lot. Sometimes I can catch them with a fastball. 0-2, they’re thinking curveball. I’ll throw a high heater to get ’em.”
Another key to Connor’s success this season: he has walked only three batters in 45⅓ innings.
“When you don’t throw fast, you can’t let runners get on,” Connor said. “So I focus on hitting my locations.”
Connor also is a member of the West Scranton wrestling team. He carries over the mentality needed for that sport and applies it to baseball.
“I feel one of my greatest strengths is I don’t let anything get in my head,” Connor said. “Nothing really bothers me, I always look past everything. That’s from wrestling. If you get taken down in the first period, you can’t get mad. You can’t let it get to you. You have to keep going. So I look at it the same way in baseball. You can’t let an error or a double bother you. You just have to go out there and clear your mind every pitch.”
Wrestling has also helped Connor stay strong for baseball.
As a junior, he appeared in nine games, mainly in relief (one start). He was 2-1 with one save, a 4.63 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings.
This season, he has appeared in 10 games with seven starts.
“Wrestling is tough on the body. To stay conditioned, you run all the time, lift, work out to stay in shape,” Connor said. “That helps with my stamina on the mound. I went four consecutive games seven innings, so definitely my stamina’s been up there.
“I’m pretty happy about my season. I’ve had good defense behind me to back me up on the mound. Every game I’m just coming out there confident.”
On Monday, West Scranton begins postseason play. The No. 4 seed Invaders host rival and No. 5 seed Scranton in the first round of the District 2-4 Class 6A Subregional tournament. The winner advances to face No. 1 seed Hazleton Area in the semifinals.
Connor is expected to start Monday’s game. He and his teammates are excited for the playoffs.
“We’ve had some mistakes and errors in some bad situations early,” Connor said. “But we’re starting to come along. We’re not making errors, (getting) timely hitting, timely fielding. We beat every team in our (division), so that was good.
“As long as we’re focused and come ready to play, I think we can make a run.”
Originally, Connor was planning to attend East Stroudsburg University and wasn’t going to wrestle or play baseball in college.
But after his final wrestling match, the reality of never participating in the sport again hit him. It made him sad and he didn’t want the same feeling for baseball. So he changed course and decided to continue his academic and baseball careers at Marywood University.
He will major in secondary history education to become a history teacher.
“In seventh grade, I had a really good history teacher (Mr. Link),” Connor said. “I’ve always liked history and he inspired me in how he would always help kids out. I want to do the same and give back. Inspire kids to stay in school and focus on everything they have going on.”
Contact the writer:
firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100, ext. 5109
@swalshTT on Twitter