Mick's a hit

By John EnriettoEagle Sports Editor

BUTLER TWP — Stepping up to the plate and getting a hit is nothing special to Mick Fennell.
After all, that's what a batter is supposed to do.
It's just that Fennell — a junior pitcher-outfielder on the
Butler varsity baseball team — does it more often than most.
He played three and a half years of Little League ball — 77 games — without striking out. He reached base 10 times in his first 11 at bats as a freshman on the
Butler's junior varsity team.
Fennell hit safely in all 18 Golden Tornado games he played in as a sophomore before breaking his collarbone just after the regular season ended. That hitting streak extended to 24 games this year before it ended last week against North Allegheny.
“I became aware of it toward the end of last season,” Fennell said of the streak. “It plays with your mind a little bit.
“You want to extend it, but you don't want to become over-anxious at the same time. You have to swing at good pitches.”
Fennell's streak ended at the hands of North Allegheny pitcher Tanner Wilt, who is headed to Coastal Carolina University to pitch next year. Fennell flew out to left field on a 92 mile per hour fastball to end that game.
“He's one of the toughest pitchers I've faced,” Fennell said. “Jesse Bauer (North Hills) gives me fits, too.”
Fennell did hit safely against Wilt during the streak. He also kept it going against NA's Ryan Oglesby, now pitching at Slippery Rock University, Pine-Richland's Matt Berezo, now at Duke, and Steve Laylock, now at Virginia Tech.
“A high school kid being as consistent as Mick has been at the plate is very rare,” Butler coach Todd Erdos said. “He's got a quick swing and he's well-balanced with his stance.
“His quick hands enable him to look at a pitch that split second longer.”
Not a bad pitcher, either, Fennell is 3-0 on the season with 15 strikeouts and four walks in 17 innings pitched.
“He's as reliable a pitcher as he is a hitter,” Erdos said.
Fennell not only plays the game — he knows the game. Retired Butler coach Dave Florie always gave his players a 40-question baseball IQ test. Fennell was the only player to answer all 40 correctly and that was as an eighth-grader.
Fennell's hitting streak nearly ended before his coach was aware it existed. Erdos is a first-year coach at Butler and sent Fennell to the plate to pinch-hit against Knoch.
The streak stood at 20 games at the time.
“I had no idea ... totally unaware,” the coach admitted. “It was a non-section game and I was just trying to get a bunch of guys at bats. Mick never said a word about it. He just went up and took care of business.”
Fennell lined a single to continue the streak.
“Honestly, I wasn't worried about it,” Fennell said. “The thing was gonna end sometime. I would have taken a walk there.
“I'm becoming more selective at the plate. I knows that's something I have to do. I used to swing at everything.'
Fennell hit over .400 as a sophomore last year, including a grand slam against Seneca Valley that extended the streak.
His long-range goal is to play Division I college baseball and eventually enter pro ball.
“My dream is to play in the major leagues,” Fennell admitted. “I know every kid dreams that, but it's a real target of mine.”
Fennell's oldest brother, Jason, was a catcher for five years in the Chicago White Sox organization. Older brother Ryan is a freshman playing at La Roche College.
“Mick is a switch-hitter with excellent bat control,” Erdos, a former major league pitcher, said. “He has a strong arm, he's fast and has tremendous basenall instincts.
“He is definitely a prospect.”

Some facts and figures on Butler junior Mick Fennell's recent 24-game high school baseball hitting streak:
• He had 35 hits in 76 at bats, a .461 batting average.
• He scored 31 runs and drove in 20.
• He walked 11 times and struck out five.
• He was 7-for-14 batting right-handed, 28-for-62 from the left side of the plate.
• He had 10 infield hits during the streak.