Baseball – Manasquan’s Sheehan, Muly are SSN Player, Pitcher of the Year
Manasquan senior pitchers Tommy Sheehan and Connor Muly could not be any more different from one another on game day, at least according to the guy who was on the other end of every one of the baffling pitches that the two teammates threw during the 2017 high school baseball season.
"All year, they've been big for us," senior catcher Adam Schreck explained. "Tommy wouldn't talk on the bus on day's when he's pitching. Connor is a goofball, so he's always loose and that's how you know he's dialed in. They're different, but they both get the job done."
Sheehan wears an intensely stoic look during his starts, which matches Schreck's description of his personality throughout the day of a start. He is a left-hander who touched as high as 93 miles-per-hour this season according to the radar gun of at least one Major League Scout, but doesn’t fit the baseball stereotype of "the eccentric left-hander."
When he wasn’t on the mound, Sheehan was rapping extra-base hits all over the field, picking throws at first base and chasing down fly balls in left field. Prior to this past winter, he doubled as a tough power forward on the Warriors varsity basketball team.
Muly - nicknamed "Sunshine" by his teammates after the character from the film Remember the Titans - is a right-hander who, at least by comparison, is the easy-going pitcher with the long hair fighting its way from under his cap and a smooth sidearm delivery that rocked so many hitters to sleep over the course of Manasquan’s thrill-ride of a season.
Both Warriors pitchers have their own style and methods, but together, they formed the most devastating pitching duo in the Shore Conference this season. With Muly turning in a brilliant senior season on the mound in a Shore-Conference leading 69 innings and Sheehan crushing the ball when he wasn’t shutting down hitter, Manasquan won its first NJSIAA Group II title in 31 years and is now home to both the Shore Sports Network Pitcher and Player of the Year.
Before the season, it’s fair to say Sheehan was the front-runner to win the Pitcher of the Year in the Shore Conference. Already committed to pitch at Notre Dame, the left-hander was coming off a first-team All-Shore season as a junior despite pitching through illness most of the year. He was also on the radar of several Major League organizations.
All-in-all Sheehan lived up to expectations on the mound, but it was his bat that put him over the top as the SSN Player of the year. For his senior season, Sheehan hit .474 with 10 doubles, three triples and three home runs while scoring 16 runs and driving in 23. He also put up an on-base percentage of .558 to go along with a .795 slugging percentage. Sheehan’s average and slugging percentage both ranked sixth in the Shore Conference.
Sheehan had several big hits during Manasquan’s run to its first state title in 31 years, but his most memorable hit might have been one from the regular season. In a 5-5 game in the bottom of the 12th inning against Shore Conference Class B North rival Middletown North, Sheehan turned on a pitch with a runner on base and lined it over the right-field fence for a walk-off two-run home run in what was, at the time, a key game in the B North race. Middletown North’s dugout contended that the ball should have been ruled foul, but Sheehan’s homer down the line was determined by the umpiring crew to be a home run, making for a memorable moment for Sheehan and the Warriors.
Tommy Sheehan - 2017 Batting Statistics
During the Group II playoffs, Sheehan went 7-for-16 with a double, triple, three runs scored and two RBI. His RBI triple was the difference in a 3-2 win over Bordentown in the South Jersey Group II quarterfinals and his RBI single in the first inning of the Group II final got the Warriors on the scoreboard first.
If Sheehan’s offense overshadowed his pitching, it’s only because of the expectations for him on the mound were so high while he was still unproven at the plate. Sheehan carried the Warriors to the sectional final with three strong performances on the mound and, for the tournament, he allowed one earned run on six hits with 32 strikeouts and 11 walks over 20 innings. He pitched six one-hit innings with 13 strikeouts in a win over Sterling in the NJSIAA Tournament opener, punched out 14 in a win over Sterling, and pitched a five-hitter while allowing one unearned run in a win over Governor Livingston in the Group II semifinal.
In his final varsity year, Sheehan went 6-2 with a 1.04 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 26 walks and 29 hits allowed in 54 innings. He finished his four-year varsity career as a Warrior with a career record of 18-4 and a 1.70 ERA in 173 1/3 innings. In that time, Sheehan also struck out 254, walked 73 and produced a WHIP (walks-plus-hits-per-innings-pitched) of 1.08.
Tommy Sheehan - Career Pitching
Ace in the Hole
Sheehan’s dominance on the mound was to be expected coming into the season given his pedigree, but Muly’s was unforeseen, even for him and his coaches. Unlike Sheehan, Muly did not pitch at the varsity level until his junior season and even then, he threw just 14 innings.
In those 14 innings, however, the right-hander showed the potential to be a formidable No. 2 pitcher behind Sheehan when both were seniors in 2017. He struck out 18 batters while walking five and posting a 3.00 ERA. Still, the thought of him being the best pitcher on his team – let alone the best in the conference – was beyond remote.
As it turned out, given a chance to make 10 starts, Muly proved to be much more than formidable. As a senior this past spring, he went 6-3 with a 1.42 ERA while striking out a Shore-Conference-best 91 strikeouts against just 15 walks.
Connor Muly - 2017 Pitching Statistics
Like Sheehan, Muly’s most memorable individual highlight was likely a regular-season performance. In a regular-season meeting against Monmouth County Tournament champion and Shore Conference Tournament finalist Red Bank Catholic, Muly pitched a one-hit shutout and struck out a career-high 16 while walking only two during an 8-0 Manasquan win. The performance was one of four instances this past season in which Muly struck out at least 10 men in a game. He also struck out nine on three different occasions.
While Muly’s regular-season success warranted consideration for the Pitcher of the Year honor, his postseason secured it. Like his entire team, the right-hander entered the NJSIAA Tournament on somewhat of a down note. Muly lost back-to-back starts to Rumson-Fair Haven and Pinelands, the latter of which was a 1-0 loss in the Shore Conference Tournament opening round and dropped his record to 3-3. The two losses were part of a 1-6 stretch for Manasquan that dropped the Warriors from 9-4 to 10-10.
Muly's first state tournament outing began by spotting Bordentown two runs in the top of the first inning on a home run. From there, however, Muly rounded back into form and finished off a four-hit complete game with 11 strikeouts in a 3-2 Warriors win in the quarterfinal round.
If the 16-strikeout game against RBC was Muly’s best game of the season, his last two were his most important. In the South Jersey Group II final, he matched zeroes with West Deptford’s Jack Murphy for six innings before the Warriors finally broke through for a run with two out in the seventh inning. Muly took the ball in the seventh and finished off a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks to pitch Manasquan to a sectional title.
With a 1-0 win in a sectional championship game under his belt, Muly took the ball in the Group II final against Whippany Park. After Manasquan spotted him four runs in the first two innings, Muly brought the title home with a complete-game effort in a 7-3 Manasquan win. Statistically, it was probably the worst of his three state tournament games – he allowed two earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk – but he pitched a full seven innings against a red-hot Wildcat offense that had scored 51 runs in its first four state tournament games.
Muly’s 2017 season might not have been possible were it not for a mechanical adjustment that happened over a period of several months between his junior and senior years. He had experimented with a side-armed delivery as a junior, but often got pushback from his coaches. Over the summer between junior and senior year, Muly refined the delivery, got a better feel for his breaking ball out of the arm slot, and came to camp in March committed to making it work. Once his coaches saw it in action, the resistance faded.
Like Sheehan, Muly will pitch at a Division I program in college. He is slated to attend Old Dominion University in the fall.
Pitcher of the Year Rankings
1. Connor Muly, RHP, Manasquan
2. Tommy Sheehan, Sr., LHP, Manasquan
3. Austin Nappi, Jr., RHP, Red Bank Catholic
4. Justin Fall, Jr., LHP, Toms River South
5. Anthony Elefante, Sr., RHP, Lacey
Player of the Year Rankings
1. Tommy Sheehan, Sr., LHP/1B/OF, Manasquan
2. Mike Nyisztor, Sr., SS, Toms River North
3. T.J. Scuderi, Jr., OF/RHP, Toms River South
4. Craig Larsen, Jr., 2B/RHP, Toms River North
5. Matt Shiffer, Sr., 2B/RHP, Toms River South