Sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran stared down at the plate, wound up and released his final pitch of the night. It blew past the batter as he gave a tentative checked swing — strike three. O’Halloran’s teammates rushed from the dugout, eager to congratulate him on his stellar performance.
He’d just tossed arguably the best start from a Michigan pitcher so far this season.
The Wolverines won their home opener Thursday against Dayton ,2-1, and they can thank their starter’s impressive outing for that victory.
It was an eight-inning gem, throughout which O’Halloran allowed just one run, three hits, no walks and notched thirteen strikeouts — blowing past the season’s previous record of nine from junior right-hander Cameron Weston.
O’Halloran’s command was on point all night. He consistently found the strike zone, his pace giving hitters little time to breathe.
“Definitely just keep attacking,” O’Halloran said of his approach. “A big part of our game is throwing strikes, letting our defense work. … I have a lot of trust in my team to make plays behind me.”
The Wolverines’ starting rotation had yet to have a pitcher last through seven innings this season, the previous high being junior left-hander Jacob Denner’s 6.2 innings against Indiana State on March sixth. But O’Halloran cruised through eight with minimal resistance from the Flyers.
“We define a quality starter as a pitcher who can get us to the seventh inning, so he can give us six innings,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “A lot of the time pitch count determines how far he’ll go in the game, and the success he’s having.”
O’Halloran kept the score sheet remarkably clean, pitching deep into the game — he threw 104 pitches, 75 of which were strikes flashing admirable command. His whopping thirteen strikeouts, lack of walks and lone hit-by-pitch show the fruits of that consistent accuracy.
“Working ahead, attacking with his fastball, using his slider and change when he needed to,” Bakich said when asked what O’Halloran did well. “Connor just did a great job. … That was your picture perfect pitching and defense kind of a game.”
Michigan’s pitching has sometimes cracked under late-game pressure this season, but O’Halloran showed a resilient steadiness that the team desperately needed. And it’s all down to his approach.
“I definitely credit it a lot to our culture and practicing our mindsets,” O’Halloran said. “We have a whole routine, and it’s something that’s really big for us.”
It was that approach — and maybe a little luck of the Irish — that boosted O’Halloran to tossing a St. Patrick’s Day gem.