NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- Although both he and his coach point to the hard work he has undertaken to improve as a senior, New Providence third baseman/pitcher Jack Connor still clings to an image from 2018, in his junior year, as his favorite baseball moment so far.

"My most memorable game is definitely last year's section championship game,"  Connor said. "The feeling of that last pitch being thrown and dog-piling on the pitchers mound was amazing. We are looking to do that again this year."

Last year, New Providence defeated Dunellen, 4-2, for the Section 2, Group 1 championship. The Pioneers followed that by nearly pulling off a miraculous comeback, scoring five runs in their last at-bat before losing to Park Ridge, 12-11, in the Group 1 state semifinals. Connor had two hits and three RBI in that game.

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New Providence on Monday began defense of its sectional crown with a 12-1 victory over Belvidere in the first round of the 2019 state tournament. And while this season has been one marked by injuries and inconsistency for the Pioneers, they are in position to make a run at another title.

Connor, who has emerged with some strong pitching performances in addition to his play at third base and in the middle of New Providence's batting order, is certainly one key to those aspirations. He is the TAPinto New Providence Athlete of the Week.

"I cannot say enough positive things about Jack," New Providence head coach Chris Brodeur said. "He is a intense competitor, and a strong teammate. He has worked very hard to get himself into a position to succeed."

Connor has five extra-base hits and 16 runs batted in for New Providence this season. A two-year starter, he has a chance to reach 50 career hits (he's at 45). And, this season, the right-hander has made his mark on the mound, too.

After pitching two scoreless innings in relief against perennial state power Millburn in April, Connor has sparkled in a couple of starts on the mound in May. He allowed two hits in six innings when New Providence surprised Group 4 opponent Union on May 3 with a 10-6 victory, and he pitched a five-hit complete game and allowed just one earned run in a 7-3 victory over Brearley last week.

"This year, Jack has built on the solid success he had as a junior, and has helped us win in numerous ways," Brodeur said. "His pitching performance against Union was top notch, and he has done a very solid job driving in runs for us all year."

Connor took time out to answer a few questions for TAPinto New Providence this week.

Q: What improvements have you made in your game since last season?
A: I trained off-season to get stronger and increase my pitching velocity. I think my game has improved a lot from last season.

Q: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
A: Coach Brodeur always tells us that we need to play the game not the opponent.

Q: What are your plans after high school?
A: After high school I’m going to Fairleigh Dickinson University to continue my baseball career. I’ll be majoring in sports management and hopefully after college I will get a job with a major league team.

Q: What do you like most about New Providence High School?
A: The thing I like the most about New Providence High School is that it is small. The members of our baseball team are like brothers because we see each other every day throughout the day in school, at baseball and after.

Q: Do you have a favorite subject? Favorite teacher?
A: My favorite subject is gym, and my favorite teacher is Mr.Sommo. His class is very entertaining. Also the fact that he’s one of our coaches makes the class that much better.

Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: My favorite athlete is Derek Jeter. I grew up watching him and he shaped how I try to play the game. Jeter was a great guy on and off the field, and never really got a hot head no matter how good he was.

Q: Do you have a role model?
A: My dad is definitely my role model. He pushes me to be the best I can be. Even though sometimes he pushes a little to far, I know he’s always trying to help. On top of that, he was a great athlete in high school, so I have to try to live up to the family name.

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The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham.  Joe is a 25 year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market.  Joe can be reached at jeberle@weichert.com or call 908-868-4800