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Rooney capitalizes on pitching role as a freshman

First year pitchers typically do not step on the mound until the later innings of the game. But John Rooney has been given the chance not many first year pitchers get to experience: starting in a conference game.

“I’m really happy the coaches have the confidence in me to go from reliever to starter,” John Rooney, a 6-foot-5-inch left-hander from Melrose, New York, said.

Rooney began the season as one of the most relied on relievers of the Hofstra pitching staff, including opening day against Texas A&M, where he was the first relief pitcher to come out of the bullpen for the Pride.

He was then penciled in as the long reliever for the time being, staying on the mound for up to four innings each outing.

After tossing 21 innings in nine appearances out of relief, head coach John Russo gave the Hoosic Valley High School alumnus his opportunity to start in an out-of-conference matchup on the road against NYIT.

The 2015 New York State Class C Baseball Player of the Year was given the no decision, but fanned seven batters in five shutout innings.

That was all the coaches needed to see from the freshman to promote him as a weekend starter.

“John Rooney is a competitor,” head coach John Russo said. “I think every time he gets out there, he gains experience. He keeps getting better and better.”

His first two outings did not go according to plan with both games resulting in a loss. However, Rooney gave his team two quality outings, combining for five earned runs in 11.1 innings with nine strikeouts.

It was not until his next appearance that Rooney would put himself into the Hofstra baseball record book.

Slated to pitch game two of the series, Rooney had his toughest task to date in front him: the College of Charleston, a perennial top 25 program in Division I baseball.

Rooney went out and performed unlike any other Hofstra freshman pitcher has since 2004, throwing a complete game.

The Melrose native allowed just one run on four hits in nine frames, including eight strikeouts.

His team came out with a victory against the Cougars the day before, which ignited confidence in the freshman.

“It was nice to come out the day before with a win with Chris Weiss on the mound because he pitched a great game and it [made me think], ‘Hey, why can’t I do this too,’” Rooney said.

Already leading the Pride in strikeouts, his eight punch-out performance jumped him to fourth place in the CAA with 48 total this season.

Rooney credits this accomplishment to learning how to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, which was his most difficult obstacle to climb when adjusting from high school to college baseball.

“I learned how to be a pitcher this year,” Rooney said.

Rooney looks to continue to prove that Hofstra is not a team that the opposition can get easy sweeps on, and Coach Russo believes that the rookie southpaw has the power to lead the Pride to successful seasons over the next few years.

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