Syd the kid: As star freshman, O’Hara may be on her way to becoming best 2-way player in program history
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Sydney O’Hara’s ERA was misstated. She compiled a .16 ERA. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
On Feb. 7, freshman Sydney O’Hara threw a no-hitter against Austin Peay in her first-ever collegiate appearance.
Six innings. Twelve strikeouts. One walk.
O’Hara became just the fourth pitcher in school history to accomplish the feat — the first to do so in a debut — and added a 3-for-4 performance at the plate with a double and two RBIs.
But that was just the start.
In her first collegiate season, O’Hara has dominated on the mound, leading the team in earned-run average (3.66), strikeouts (107, 70 more than the next highest), wins (10), innings pitched (86) and opponent batting average (.232). But she’s also matched Shirley Daniels for the team lead in doubles (eight) and ranks fifth on the team in home runs (three), RBIs (13) and runs scored (16) as a mainstay at the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
Add on Atlantic Coast Conference and National Player of the Week honors, and O’Hara could be on her way to becoming not only the best freshman in program history, but also the best two-way player Syracuse softball has ever seen.
“Just thinking about coming in here and getting those awards, I never in a million years would expect that,” O’Hara said. “I just go out there, and I play hard.”
Long before O’Hara began wreaking havoc on collegiate opponents, she started conquering her competition just 17 minutes from campus in Central Park in Cicero, N.Y.
A 5-year-old O’Hara was the last batter of the inning in a tee ball game and was given the chance to run the bases to make her feel good. But as she was rounding first, O’Hara laid out the first baseman.
Ever since then, Jim and Michele O’Hara knew their daughter was going to be an athlete.
In her first year of coach pitch, O’Hara played on the only all-girls team, much to the dismay of the boys in the league. As a seventh grader, O’Hara allowed only two hits in her modified season, Jim said. Then as an eighth grader, she earned a spot in the Cicero-North Syracuse High School starting lineup because of her bat.
“She’s always looking to gain the extra edge over others,” said Kim Aupperle, a pitching coach who worked with O’Hara from ages 9–16. ”It’s not just something that she shows up and has the skill to do. She does have the skill, but she has that work ethic.”
That showed in her senior season as O’Hara was named the New York State Gatorade Softball Player of the Year when she led C-NS to a Class AA state championship.
She went 19-0 on the mound, compiling a .16 ERA, 283 strikeouts in 128.2 innings and three no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game. And O’Hara also hit .500 with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and nine doubles her senior year.
She finished her varsity career with 25 home runs and 38 doubles at the plate, to go along with a 52-4 record with 741 strikeouts on the mound.
“She was just on a different level,” Aupperle said.
Ever since her first game for Syracuse, O’Hara has been a dual-threat player that is making a bigger name for herself every time she steps on the field.
SU head coach Leigh Ross didn’t completely know what she was going to get from the freshman at the start, but now she knows exactly what to expect.
“I would look at her and think she’s coming at me,” Ross said. “She has this in-your-face attitude. She’s not afraid of you.”
As O’Hara continues to mow down the competition and succeed at the plate, she’s already starting to define her career as what could be one of the best in program history.
Stephanie Watts — who graduated from Syracuse in 2012 — had a standout freshman season. She started in all 51 games, leading the team with a .318 average and setting then-single-season team records in steals, triples and runs.
Watts went on to set program records in games started, runs scored and total bases. She also ranks second all-time in hits and stolen bases, third in home runs and fourth in RBIs.
But she never threw a pitch.
Neither did 2013 graduate Veronica Grant, who set six freshman records en route to becoming SU’s all-time leader in doubles, while ranking third in stolen bases and fourth in games started and runs scored.
Current pitching coach Jenna Caira, who led the Orange in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts as a freshman and went on to set program records in 11 different pitching categories, was never a primary part of the lineup.
Now that she’s working with someone who closely resembles her talent, Caira noted the similarities between her freshman season and O’Hara’s.
“I look at my freshman year and I had my ups and downs, too,” Caira said. “I think that she’s found ways to battle through, and I think she’s really starting to find her own.”
Watts and Grant excelled with their bats. Caira did so with her arm.
O’Hara does both.
Caira is only one of two players in SU history to be named an All-American, and based on Ross’s intuition, there could be a third member of that club in the near future.
When O’Hara was making it look easy against Georgia Tech two weeks ago, a voice went off in Ross’s head.
“That could be an All-American,” Ross said. “That was the first time I actually thought that.
“This kid has potential to do that.”
Published on April 7, 2014 at 1:45 am