Two-sport life for pitcher

Pat Connaughton has been playing baseball and basketball for as long as he can remember, and fortunately for the Notre Dame two-sport star, he doesn’t have to give one of those up quite yet, despite already playing one of those sports professionally.

Following his junior season with the Fighting Irish, Connaughton was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Orioles in last month’s MLB draft. He’s currently pitching for the New York-Penn League’s Aberdeen IronBirds, coming out of the bullpen for the first time and taking the loss in Aberdeen’s 6-4 defeat by the Tri-City ValleyCats on Thursday, but will return to Notre Dame for his senior season with the men’s basketball team.

The ValleyCats fell behind 3-1 in the seventh inning, but scored five runs in the eighth to rally for the win.

Adam Nelubowich and Derek Fisher reached on errors to start the decisive inning, and Ariel Ovando drove in the go-ahead run, 4-3, on a sacrifice fly.

Chris Munnelly (2-0) earned the win after three innings of relief. He gave up one hit and struck out six batters.

“Basically before the draft, I told everybody unless you’re going to let me go back and play basketball, then I just want to be honest with you, I’m not going to sign,” Connaughton said. “A lot of teams took that to heart because in the first 10 rounds, if you don’t sign them, you lose the pick, so I knew it would hurt my draft stock a little bit. At the end of the day, I felt like it was the best decision.”

Connaughton, who became the highest drafted pitcher from Notre Dame in six years, is permitted to play a professional sport, but can no longer play that sport collegiately. He can be represented by an agent just as long as that agent is not involved in the other sport he plays.

He’s represented by Sam Samardzija, brother of Oakland Athletics pitcher and former Notre Dame two-sport athlete Jeff Samardzija.

“A lot of kids know beforehand who, or if, they get there what team will draft them,” Connaughton said. “I didn’t because of the unique situation. My agent was giving me updates, but he heard a few in the fifth round and sixth round. The Orioles just happened to say my name. I was surprised.”

In his junior season on the mound, Connaughton went 3-5 with a 3.92 ERA in 10 starts. He struck out 36 batters in 62 innings. On the court, the 6-foot-5 wing averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Connaughton made his fourth appearance with Aberdeen on Thursday against Tri-City. He gave up four runs — all unearned — on five hits and struck out three batters in the IronBirds’ loss.

He’ll make two more appearances with Aberdeen before he returns to Notre Dame on July 30 to begin work on the basketball court with his teammates as they prepare for their foreign tour of Italy in August.

“I’m anxious,” Connaughton said. “I’m still in baseball mode. I’ve never necessarily played this much baseball every day, but I love it, it’s fun, and I’ll love basketball when I get back to it.”

Before he returns to Notre Dame, Connaughton said he hopes to continue to develop and learn from his coaches and teammates at Aberdeen.

“These guys have played a lot more than I have, so I’m just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can and try to be a sponge,” he said. “Perform as best I can and kind of show them how I could perform if I focus on it and then head off to play basketball and do the same thing with that.” 518-454-5411 @JKoehlerTU