Finn O’Meara suffered a season-ending wrist injury the second defensive drive of last football season but still finished the game.
O’Meara, a Nazareth junior, did not get the full picture of the extent of the injury until a week later when swelling never went away, requiring surgery.
The injury eventually forced a look in the mirror. O’Meara considered internal changes, pitching mechanics for more velocity, and location.
“In the offseason, I made a lot of mechanical changes, really started to feel my body better,” O’Meara said following Nazareth’s 8-1 victory over Marmion on Monday. “Changed my body. Got a whole lot bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic. Coming off that, I was really starting to find myself.”
O’Meara showed some of that work Monday as he made it through 4 1/3 innings, striking out three and allowing just three hits.
“Early in the season, it took a little bit of time – even in this game – it took a little time to adjust,” O’Meara said. “Once I got it, I’ve been feeling really well.”
Nazareth coach Lee Milano has watched O’Meara improve as the season has progressed.
“[In his first varsity season he was] being a little bit nervous at the beginning where he want[ed] to prove himself and [put] a little too much pressure on himself, “Milano said.” But, he has gotten better every time out there. He pitched against Downers Grove North a couple Fridays ago and just did a great job so he earned another start. “
The Roadrunners (19-7, 6-6) still have seven games left in the regular season, but O’Meara believes they’re playing with the confidence and drive that is needed late in the year.
“Yeah, obviously, we’re a super young team so I think early in the season it took some time to find our identity,” O’Meara said. “We’re really starting to feel it now. We’ve had some games, but we’re really learning to bounce back and win as a team.”
Marmion (7-13, 4-10) struck first in the top half of the first on Sam Seykora’s RBI single, but Nazareth chased Cadets starter Ethan Havertape after just two-thirds of an inning by scoring three runs. Cooper Malamazian, who reached on a fielder’s choice, eventually scored from third base with the tying run on a pickoff throw to second.
David Cox drove in a second run with an RBI ground and Havertape wild pitch brought Nick Drtina to make it 3-1. A wild pitch by Marmion relief pitcher Tyler O’Connor brought in a fourth Nazareth run, but O’Connor rebounded with a strikeout to get out of further trouble.
In the fourth inning, Nazareth picked up a pair of runs on a sacrifice fly from Lucas Smith and an RBI single by Luke Brabham for a 6-1 lead.
An RBI triple in the fifth from John Hughes and an RBI groundout by Brabham finished the job.
O’Connor threw 3 1/3 innings of relief, limiting the damage to three runs and three strikeouts.
“We’re kind of up and down; he’s still learning being a junior,” Cadets coach Frank Chapman said of O’Connor. “So there’s been a lot of bright spots with him throughout the season. But there’s been kind of that ebb and flow, so we had another bright spot there being able to jump in.”
The Cadets had three innings with at least two runners on and could not get a run, underscoring a tough day at the plate.
“It’s been hard for us to string together a competitive team approach offensively,” Chapman said. “We tend to try to get real big when we get runners in scoring position instead of trying to just stay short and put the ball in play. So when we put the ball in play, it does not matter if it’s a ground ball; we ‘ve had a lot of success with that taking out Mount Carmel [last] Saturday. So it’s getting back to that and keeping things simple. “