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Looking out for No. 1

November 07, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

I have a habit of ranking things.

From football teams and cross country runners to concerts and restaurants, there's a top-10 list somewhere in the back of my head.

Not long before I left my sportswriting job at The Record Herald in Waynesboro a few years ago, I wrote a column ranking my top-three sports memories while on the local beat.

Coming in at No. 2 was the complete-game one-hitter hurled by Waynesboro junior Ryan Devlin against Montoursville in the 2000 PIAA state quarterfinals, as the Indians scratched out a 1-0 victory.

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"I was pumping it that day," said Devlin, now a sophomore at Hagerstown Community College. "That was fun."

It was certainly fun to watch. To this day, Devlin's gem is still No. 1 on my all-time list of pitching performances.

With a fastball cracking 90 mph and pinpoint control, Devlin put the finishing touches on one of the finest seasons ever turned in by an area player.

Of course, I wasn't the only one who noticed.

Devlin - who went 10-2 that year with a 2.00 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 19 walks in 85 innings of work - was the USA Today Pennsylvania Player of the Year runner-up, listed as No. 8 on the Team One Top-10 Prospects on the East Cost list, was first-team all-state, first-team all-Mid-Penn ... "First-team everything," Devlin said, "all the papers and everything."

Probably my favorite part of that story is that the season before, Devlin was nothing more than a benchwarmer for the St. Maria Goretti baseball team.

"I didn't play at all there. I don't know why," said Devlin. "I was on the team, but they never played me."

The 6-foot-7, 215-pound righty has spent the last two years working hard to prove himself again.

He'll take his next big step this Wednesday when he signs a letter of intent to continue his career at the University of Pittsburgh, which has offered him a full athletic scholarship.

"I'm going to be a front-line pitcher there," said Devlin, who will join the Panthers (who went 36-16-1 and finished third in the Big East last year) as a junior next fall. "I'll be a conference starter right away."

It'll be Devlin's second stab at the NCAA Division I ranks. After being sidelined for nearly all of his much-anticipated senior season at Waynesboro with a torn muscle in his right forearm - caused by an underdeveloped rotator-cuff muscle - he headed to North Carolina State on a small scholarship last fall.

But it didn't work out with the Wolfpack.

"They thought my arm was going to be 100 percent going in, and I still needed to rehab and get everything going again," said Devlin. "They had me as a closer and a middle reliever in the fall, and in order for my arm to get healthy and back to where it was, that just wasn't going to cut it."

"I needed to go somewhere to get a bunch of quality innings in. ... I'd rather come home, up to Hagerstown, and play here."

That he did, shortly into the second semester last winter. Between intense workouts, with his arm getting stronger by the week, Devlin went 5-3 with two saves and a 2.50 ERA for HCC last spring. He said his recent fall-ball campaign with the Hawks was even better.

"I had a great fall," said Devlin. "I didn't walk anyone in nine innings and I had like 16 strikeouts. ... My velocity is almost completely back."

It was all enough to capture the attention of Pitt, where his friend and former HCC and South Hagerstown standout pitcher P.J. Hiser is also in the lineup.

"I came to junior college and proved myself and got my feet wet with college ball," said Devlin. "Now I want to go somewhere where I can develop for the next level."

Devlin said his No. 1 goal is to eventually get drafted by a major-league team.

Maybe I'll have to make some space for a new No. 1.




Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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