When it comes to the idea of “helping yourself” as a pitcher, few do it better than Connetquot’s Sarah McKeveny.
Take April 7, for example.
McKeveny, a full-season varsity member since the eighth grade, entered the home contest against Sachem East with 492 strikeouts for her Connetquot tenure. Knowing a round number was in reach, it was all she could think about.
“When I knew I had 492,” McKeveny said, “I just went at every batter and just kind of wanted to get it done.”
And it didn’t take long to reach that milestone, as McKeveny struck out the first eight batters of the game. But her impressive day wasn’t complete. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, McKeveny hit a grand slam to catapult a 7-3 victory and finished the game with 17 strikeouts.
“It was probably one of the best games I’ve ever played,” she said.
Since, she has led the Thunderbirds to a 9-2 record — good for first place in Suffolk II — and tossed a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts Monday in an 8-0 victory against Patchogue-Medford, then defeated first-place Bay Shore Tuesday to be named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
McKeveny, a returning Newsday All-Long Island selection and one of the top two-way players in Suffolk, is hitting .419 with three home runs and 13 RBIs with 118 strikeouts in the circle through Wednesday.
“Her effort on and off the field just in terms of being a leader, her training,” coach Michelle Goodwin said, “it’s been consistent throughout her high school career.”
McKeveny was moved up to the varsity team for the playoffs in the seventh grade and started in centerfield in eighth grade. She traded off in the circle as a freshman before becoming the team’s primary pitcher as a sophomore. Last year, she set the school single-season record with 227 strikeouts, according to statistics from former varsity coach Tom Anziano. McKeveny’s witnessed her game grow immensely since joining the varsity.
“It used to be a lot of walks, a lot of wild pitches,” McKeveny said with a laugh. “I feel like I’ve really matured both mentally and physically as a pitcher mostly to get ahead in the counts and just going at a batter to strike them out or get them to ground out or pop out.”
But for McKeveny, committed to play Division I softball at Bryant in Rhode Island, her eyes are focused on winning and snapping what she and her teammates refer to as the “Connetquot Curse.”
“We call it the ‘Connetquot Curse,’ where we have an amazing season then get knocked out the first or second round of the playoffs,” McKeveny said. “We’ve been doing everything we can this year to break that curse and I think this is going to be the year where we finally get to a county championship.”