Coastal’s Connolly named to NCBWA’s Stopper watch list

Coastal Carolina senior and preseason All-American Ryan Connolly (Charleston, S.C./Bishop England HS) is one of 51 players named to the mid-season “Watch List” for the ninth annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.

Connolly is 3-3 with nine saves and owns a 1.47 ERA. He has appeared in 19 games, pitching 43.0 innings with a Big South best opponent batting average of .153. He ranks fourth nationally in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (4.6) and sixth nationally with a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.79. He additionally leads the Big South and ranks 19th in the nation in saves while ranking third in the Big South and 29th nationally in ERA.

For his career, Connolly has led the Big South in appearances in each of his first three years and owns the CCU and Big South records for most appearances by a pitcher, currently at 126, which also ranks 17th in NCAA history – second-best among active players.

To date, Connolly owns a 2.12 career ERA with an 11-6 record and 232 saves. In 212.1 career innings, he has struck out 173 versus 58 walks and has an opponent batting average of .227. Most importantly, over the last two seasons, Connolly has factored in 28 of CCU’s 67 wins – or 41.8 percent – with his eight wins and 20 saves.

While his numbers are impressive, the following examples show he more than just a “Stopper” as numerous times he pitches well over one inning to factor in decisions.

– Pitched 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings with five Ks in getting save number one versus Florida Atlantic.

– In a game he tied the CCU and Big South records for career appearances, then 117 at Wake Forest, he got a strikeout and a fly out before Evan Stephens reached on a bunt single. The Deacons made things interesting when Stephens, the tying run, stole second, before Connolly struck out Mark Rhine to earn his fourth save of the season.

– With two out and the bases loaded with CCU leading Gardner-Webb 4-3, recorded a strikeout to end the game.

– Pitched two scoreless and hitless innings in an 8-6win over Liberty.

– In a 14-innings marathon versus College of Charleston, got the win as he pitched 3.0 scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk with five strikeouts.

– At Winthrop, he twice avoided bases-loaded jams to preserve one-run wins to pick up a pair of saves. In the first game, he entered in the bottom of the 11th with one on and no outs. After allowing a single and a bunt to load the bases, Connolly induced two pop outs and a strikeout to end the game.

– In the second Winthrop save, Connolly pitched 1.2 innings, avoiding a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. With CCU leading 4-3, Connolly entered the game with one out and two runners on base. After striking out the first batter he faced, Connolly hit Max Vogel to load the bases. Connolly got Austen Barber to fly out and end the threat. Connolly then retired all three batters faced in the ninth to end the contest.

– In his most impressive outing, pitched 7.0 scoreless innings in a 15-inning 1-0 win over Radford. The game started Friday night and was suspended in the middle of the eighth. The game resumed Saturday and Connolly pitched all seven innings before Ted Blackman’s walk-of home run. Connolly only allowed four hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Even in his three losses this season, Connolly pitched well. Versus them #7 Kentucky, only allowed one hit and two runs over 3.2 innings with none walks and three strikeouts. Versus then #10 NC State, Connolly pitched 2.2 innings, allowing one hit, one run and one walk with four strikeouts in the 5-4, 10-inning loss. At VMI, he was saddled with a loss as, with two outs, a fly ball was dropped in the outfield for the potential third out to allow the winning run to score.

Connolly, a freshman All-American and All-Big South pick in 2010, was an All-Big South selection last season and was the Big South Tournament Co-MVP. He then went to the Cape Cod league and continued to dominate. He was 8-0, leading the Cape in wins and he tied for fourth in the league with four saves. He led the Cape in games pitched (23), was second in innings pitched (51.1, leader was 51.2), ranked second in the league with 56 strikeouts and fourth in the league with a 2.28 ERA.

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