CARY, N.C. – It’s a good sign when the biggest start of your career becomes just another game.
Nazareth graduate and Brookfield native Patrick Kelly had that feeling at the Division II College World Series on May 29. Kelly came up in the clutch with a quality start and a victory.
The Grand Valley State redshirt freshman started in the Lakers’ third game of the CWS at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Kelly pitched seven innings and allowed three runs in a 10-3 win in an elimination game of the double-elimination tournament.
The Lakers finished 3-2 at the tournament, coming up one win short of the final before losing to eventual champion Tampa.
“At first I was a little nervous, but once I settled down I realized it was just another game,” Kelly said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was really special to be able to go down there, especially as a freshman.”
Kelly called it the biggest start of his career. Starting on a stage that big didn’t seem likely just a year ago.
After redshirting his first year on campus, Kelly had an uphill battle to receive consistent playing time for the Lakers. He did so in a big way and was named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference Freshman of the Year thanks to a 2.20 ERA and an 8-3 record.
“At the beginning of last year as a red shirt, I knew I had to earn my spot,” Kelly said. “I earned my spot as that No. 3 guy. Being in the College World Series as the No. 3 was a dream come true.”
Kelly, a business and finance major, was a control pitcher for the Lakers. He walked just nine batters in 77.2 innings this season.
He was a part of the 2011 Nazareth team that took fourth place in Class 3A and said playing with the Roadrunners under coach Lee Milano helped prepare him for college success. The tough schedule, winning tradition and family atmosphere in the Nazareth program helped Kelly at the next level.
“Being in those big games in high school and throwing helped to be prepared for a big-game mentally,” Kelly said. “I’m still best friends with half the team. During high school, we always had dinner at coach’s house before games. We were always together.”