As Hart baseball held a one-run lead over Saugus heading into the final inning in a late-April game, Ryan Carolan sat in the dugout, drenched in apprehension.
“Really nervous,” said center fielder Cole Roederer. “So I walked up to him because he’s talking about getting a new truck, (we) talked about it, talked about fishing. Talked about all that stuff.”
Trucks and fishing: two things guaranteed to make Carolan smile. The pitcher walked to the mound, licked his thumb and first finger and touched the brim of his hat and then…
“(He) came out and dealt,” Roederer said.
Carolan threw two strikeouts to protect his team’s lead. In seven innings on the afternoon, he recorded six strikeouts and gave up four hits.
It was just another example of how the senior has served as the Indians’ rock throughout this season.
“An old school kind of a guy,” said coach Jim Ozella. “Works hard … He’s always dependable. You know what you’re going to get from him.”
Whether the Foothill League champion Indians need someone to perform on the mound in a game or they need someone to help rebuild the mound after a day of practice, Carolan is there.
With the unexpectedly turbulent season that Hart has had, Carolan’s steadfastness has proved invaluable. Injuries have plagued the team, beginning with starting pitcher Bryce Collins, who was limited early in the season due to a case of the flu and then mono.
Carolan had no hesitation when stepping up and filling the role.
“I’d been looking forward to it for a while,” he said. “I knew last year, one of our starters was a senior, so I knew that I would be the next one to step up and I’d been preparing for that for quite a while. And then this year came and my preparation paid off.”
Over the summer, he struggled with a touch of pitcher’s block, but just as he’s able to shut out opposing teams’ trash talk during games, Carolan blocked out all distractions to concentrate on his craft and throw strikes.
Shortly after, the tenacity that the pitcher had ever since his freshman year prevailed. He’s now 7-1 on the season, with a 1.64 ERA and 70 strikeouts. And he can hit, too, when called upon with a .375 batting average and a .437 slugging percentage.
“It’s been just a belief that the process would fill out and he would continue to be better and better and that’s what he’s done,” Ozella said.
A catcher for most of his life, Carolan – who has been nicknamed “Fish” due to his love of fishing – didn’t pick up pitching until his sophomore year of prep baseball.
“Being a catcher helped me with my accuracy because my throws to second base have to be spot on,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier for me to come in and pound the zone, one of the things that I do.”
Carolan attributes his success this year to the trust amongst him and his teammates. He’s known Roederer and Cody Jefferis since he was four years old.
They know that his happy place is out on a lake, sitting patiently in the fishing boat he purchased shortly after he got his driver’s license. They know he’s excited to move to Iowa, where he’ll be playing baseball at Waldorf University. They know he’ll need a good truck when he gets there, too.
“He’s very comfortable in his own skin,” Roederer said. “He’s just like, that one dude that’s like, if he could be like anyone in the world, he’d be himself. He’d never pick anyone else to be like. He just loves who he is.”