CHATHAM, NJ - Matt Devlin had to wait until the last game of his high school baseball career to experience what it's like to play in front of a large crowd in a big game.
It came during a 5-3 loss to Cranford in the state sectional final last Friday at Chatham High School.
"That was awesome, it was the biggest fan base at this field that I've ever seen," Devlin, a Chatham senior, said. "The field was totally surrounded. I want to see people come to the games in the future and support the program. Prior to this, there would be a couple people on the side, but really that was it. Nobody really cared about the games, it was all lacrosse. After this, I hope at least some lacrosse kids and fans will come over to see the baseball team play."
Devlin made the most of his time in the spotlight vs. Cranford. He hit a two-out, two-run single that cut the deficit to two runs and also came on to pitch four scoreless innings of relief, striking out six.
Matt Devlin is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"When you’re a senior, the spotlight is on you," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said. "His improvement was a 100 percent turnaround. As a pitcher, he had 36 strikeouts and three walks, which is a 12 to 1 ratio. He’s just a great athlete, him and Jimmy Cunningham, you can plug in and play in so many positions for you. He was our right fielder, our cleanup hitter and he pitched.
"He’s a sneaky quiet kid, but when he has things to say, you listen. He’s all business."
Devlin certainly took his baseball seriously, working year-round on his skills. The left-hander spent time in the offseason working with Greg Short of BioPitch on his pitching and also tuned up his batting swing with Jay Tiseo at Prodigy Training.
"I had a lot of control issues last year and something just clicked this year," Devlin said. "I had three walks all year. I worked on my velocity and control with Greg Short of BioPitch. In pitching, my mentality was not to walk anybody. I pitched more aggressively and went right after the hitters."
His pitching line showed that. Devlin threw a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider, posing a 1.50 ERA, collecting a win and two saves. In 28 innings, he struck out 36 and walked three.
At the plate, Devlin's .359 batting average was only eclipsed by Peter DeMaria, who hit .385 and was limited to just 26 at-bats because of an injury. In 78 plate appearances, Devlin paced the 18-7 Cougars with 28 hits and nine stolen bases. He also ended with a .420 on-base percentage, 16 runs and 15 RBI.
"Hitting-wise, I looked for my pitch," he said. "My approach was not to let a good pitch go by."
Devlin was recruited to play baseball at Franklin & Marshall, where he intends to keep pitching and hitting.
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.