Adam Kearney article

Southern Conference Champions - 2007

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Adam Kearney article

Postby BestOfBreed on Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:04 pm ... th=!sports

Kearney answering the call for Wofford

News & Messenger
Thursday, May 31, 2007

In some ways, Adam Kearney wishes things had turned out differently this season. Not for his team, but for himself.

The Osbourn Park High School graduate arrived at Wofford College, excited about so much: returning to Division I baseball after a one-year layoff, competing for the starting spot at catcher and maybe getting a shot at pro ball with an eyebrow raising season.

Then came the holes in the pitching staff created by injuries and transfers. Dreams hoped for became dreams deferred as reality set in and the Wofford coaches could not delay the inevitable any longer: Kearney would move from behind the plate to the mound.

Kearney wanted to stay as a catcher, but accepted his fate for the good of the team.

Then, the unexpected happened.

Kearney, blessed with a strong arm, a competitor's mindset and pure athletic ability, overcame his inexperience as a pitcher to become an unsung hero in Wofford's improbable run to the NCAA Tournament.

Go figure. You have one plan, but circumstances take you down another road and this is the end result. Not ideal, but not horrible.

"I wouldn't change this for anything," Kearney said of playing in the NCAA's. "The fact we are in a regional, I never thought I would make that at Wofford. No one expected this."

Last Saturday, the Terriers clinched an automatic NCAA berth after becoming the lowest seeded team (ninth) to ever win the Southern Conference Tournament following their 4-2 win over The Citadel in the final.

Wofford, a school of 1,160 students located 71 miles south of Charlotte in South Carolina, is not a household name in college baseball. The school has only fielded a Division I baseball team since 1996 and up until this season, had never reached the NCAA's.

Of the 64 NCAA Tournament teams this season, the Terriers (30-31) are the only one with a losing record.

But they made it, beginning play today against top-seeded South Carolina in the Columbia Regional. And Kearney is a big reason why.

He earned a key win May 19 vs. Elon that gave Wofford momentum going into the conference tournament. And as the Terriers' No. 3 starter, he pitched in game three of the tournament, receiving a no-decision against UNC-Greensboro.

Overall, his stats are not impressive. Given that he was not a regular in the batting lineup, he's only hitting .193 in 24 games. As a pitcher, he's 3-5 with an 8.66 ERA.

But Terrier head coach Steve Traylor knows how much Kearney has meant to this team.

"The best way I can put it is Adam took one for the team," Traylor said. "It speaks volumes about Adam as a person and as a teammate."

Kearney had mixed emotions about the switch. He's learned a lot about pitching and can see improvement after each outing. Still ...

"It broke my heart [not to catch], but I had to suck it up and help the team," Kearney said.

Kearney loves catching. Always has. And he thrived in the position.

At Osbourn Park, Kearney was a two-time all-Cedar Run District selection. In his freshman year at Liberty University, he played in 45 games and hit .291. Last season at Baltimore City Community College, Kearney was so impressive he was ranked as the 18th best draft prospect in the Mid-Atlantic Region by Baseball America and received a pre-draft tryout by the Washington Nationals.

It was his catching abilities that caught the attention of Wofford assistant Todd Interdonato in October of 2005 during a sophomore showcase for local junior college players at Cecil Community College in Maryland.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Kearney pitched during the showcase, something that Interdonato noticed and, as a side note, passed along to Traylor as something to consider in the spring. But the main draw was Kearney's work behind the plate. Wofford needed more depth at catcher and Kearney was the perfect fit.

"The first thing I noticed was his size and his athletic ability," Interdonato said. "Once he got behind the plate, you noticed he had an extremely strong arm."

At the time, no other Division I program had offered Kearney. Kearney knew nothing about Wofford, but signed with them during the early signing period.

"It was a chance to play baseball in the South," Kearney said. "I couldn't turn that away."

Kearney was ready to settle in after bouncing around from school to school. He said he was suspended by Liberty for the fall semester of his sophomore year after compiling a number of reprimands for various violations from breaking curfew to the dress code. Kearney said the school was willing to readmit him for the spring, but he decided not to go back at all, figuring that by missing fall ball the baseball team would have found a replacement for him by the spring.

"I don't blame them," Kearney said. "It was my own defiance."

Coming into the spring season at Wofford, Kearney was competing with returning junior Keith Munns for the starting catching position. The two alternated early on, both getting plenty of playing time.

But then the Terriers' pitching staff started to come apart. The team's No. 1 starter got hurt, while its closer transferred. Kearney made his first pitching appearance March 11 against Manhattan, giving up one run and striking out three in two innings of relief. That's how it went for awhile, Kearney stepping in as a reliever.

Then, Wofford's No. 3 starter Zack Parmer was injured and the team needed a replacement, especially with conference play coming up. Kearney got the call.

"He wants the ball and wants to beat somebody," Interdonato said. "He never hesitated and said, 'I'd rather be catching.' "

Whether Kearney is locked into pitching next year or not will be up to the new Wofford coach. Traylor is retiring after this season.

But if Kearney has any say on the matter, it's clear where he wants to play.

"I thought this year, I would put it together and get the batting average up, it was a little more disappointing," Kearney said. "I am not that great of a pitcher. I just put us in a position to get the job done. We will see how it works out next year. Hopefully, I will still be on the radar screen."

David Fawcett is the sports editor of the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8052 or at
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