North Xtra: O'Malley enjoying a strong season for Avonworth

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There are a select few players in the WPIAL that teams would rather "pitch around" than let him do more serious damage.

One of those players is Avonworth's Chris O'Malley.

Entering his junior year, O'Malley decided to make a change in his on-field demeanor which resulted with him performing better on the field.

"There has been a huge upgrade from last year," O'Malley said. "I wasn't as mature and developed when I knew my teammates were looking to me to make a play last year."

Avonworth coach Phil Coffin couldn't agree more with O'Malley's sentiment.

"He has completely changed his mental outlook on himself and the game," Coffin said. "He has completely turned the page.

"The next pitch is the next important thing. He doesn't show any emotion in the batter's box after a strike or a booted ball in the field."

Through Tuesday, O'Malley was still among the WPIAL leaders, hitting an even .600 (21 for 35). He has also contributed 18 RBIs and scored 17 times. But out of all those eye-popping numbers, it is his transformation to a team leader that he is most proud of.

"I have contributed a lot to my team leadership-wise and have been able to pick them up and keep them motivated," O'Malley said. "My goals at the beginning of the season were to lead the WPIAL in batting average and to become the leader of the team."

With only four games left on the schedule, O'Malley is going to have to put up strong numbers to finish on top of the WPIAL in batting average, a spot held by Steel Valley's Brandon Donovan (.654) in games played through April 19. O'Malley's .600 mark was good enough for fifth place.

As for his other goal, that received a check mark once the season began.

Unfortunately for O'Malley, his season will end once the last out of Avonworth's final regular-season game is recorded. Through Tuesday, the Antelopes were 5-8 overall and 3-7 in the section and will not qualify for the WPIAL postseason, which makes it harder for O'Malley to motivate his teammates.

"It is difficult," O'Malley said. "It is hard to get everyone else motivated. Our team knows that we won't make the playoffs, but I am trying to keep everyone motivated. It is the game I love, so I am motivated."

O'Malley began the year as the starting third baseman but was moved to catcher. He also serves as one of the Antelopes pitchers when needed.

"He started at third and moved to catcher the last four or five games," Coffin said. "He is not a true catcher but he is my best. He has a strong arm. He is a big kid."

He showcased his strong arm from the mound in one of his best games of the year against Fort Cherry. O'Malley threw a five-inning no-hitter against the Rangers on April 17, recording seven strikeouts. He also went 2 for 2 at the plate with three runs scored, two stolen bases, a hit-by-pitch and an RBI.

"Personally that was my best," O'Malley said. "I threw the no-hitter the day after my grandpa passed away, so that meant a lot."

As far as the best performance of the season for the Antelopes, O'Malley had another game in mind. Avonworth handed South Side Beaver its only section loss to date with a 2-1 win in extra innings.

"As a team [playing our best], I would say the South Side game," O'Malley said. "I scored the game-winning run on a passed ball in extra innings. That meant more."

O'Malley plans on playing at the next level but has yet to make a decision. Right now, he is enjoying playing with his high school teammates and his teammates in an 18-and-over league, which he attributes to his maturation process.

"I play in an adult league that my coach used to play in," O'Malley said. "That has helped me with becoming more mature and learning new things."

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