Even though Latin Academy senior Dan O’Connell leads the state in batting average, he said he hasn’t changed much in his approach to hitting.
He simply has been practicing more.
One thing that has definitely changed is Latin Academy getting more recognition from its peers as the city championship approaches.
“Teachers and kids are always asking how we’re doing,” O’Connell said. “A lot more people [at Latin Academy] are more into sports this year than other seasons.”
They have good reason to be excited; the only team to have a better record than Latin Academy is the North Division champion, English.
English will open the city tournament semifinals against South champion New Mission Monday at 10 a.m. at Madison Park. Latin Academy will follow against the Central champion, East Boston, at 1 p.m. The championship game will be Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Madison Park.
The best hitter in the city, with an .808 average in 26 at-bats, O'Connell hopes he can continue what has already been a substantial offensive season through the tournament.
“It feels good, [my] last year, to get something good like that," he said. "Makes my school look good, too."
While the catcher has been on the squad since he was a freshman, he was bumped up to varsity his junior year. His coach has been impressed not only with his hitting but also his leadership on the defensive side of the game.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid, so we put him back behind the plate about two or three years ago,” coach Anthony Bernazzani said. “He was a little raw, a little rough around the edges, but he works really hard and he’s become a good defensive catcher and he’s a good hitter.”
To be a good hitter, O’Connell said, having a sense of urgency and determination is key.
“Usually I just go up like, ‘I can’t go out,' ” O’Connell said. “You don’t want to go up like, ‘I don’t want to get out,’ you want to go up like, ‘I’m going to get a hit.' ”
The strategy must be working, because he also leads Latin Academy in RBIs with 19.
Having the same kind of determination in school has helped him earn a 3.1 GPA, and he will attend UMass-Amherst in the fall.
“He gets it done in the classroom and on the field,” Bernazzani said. “You never have to worry about him. He’s always here, he’s committed, he works hard, and he’s a great all-around kid.”
O’Connell and Latin Academy have accomplished a lot this year, but they have yet to do one thing; beat English. They were 0-3 against coach Ricardo Figueroa’s team and also lost to English last year in the city championship.
Latin Academy’s No. 1 pitcher, Vincent Lopriore, said the Dragons are eager to stop that trend.
“They’re a great team, and we’re looking for some redemption, so hopefully it’s a rematch in the finals and we’ll see how it goes,” Lopriore said.
But Bernazzani noted that the road to meeting English won’t be an easy one.
“We played a real tough game against [East Boston],” Bernazzani said. “They’re a good team, so that’s how you end up losing games. If you’re looking ahead in a single-elimination tournament, that’s how you’re going to lose.”
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