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Baseball: Pro ball was in the cards for SWR grad Mike O’Reilly

Like a good pitcher working the strike zone, Mike O’Reilly is moving up the ladder.

The pitcher from Wading River, a 27th-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals last year out of Flagler College in Florida, went 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in rookie ball with the GCL Cardinals last year. This year he was assigned to the Class A Peoria Chiefs in Illinois and put up nice numbers (9-2, 1.75 ERA). Last week he was promoted to the Palm Beach Cardinals, a Class A advanced team in the Florida State League. In his first start for Palm Beach, he went eight innings, allowing two runs, three hits and one walk while striking out six.

By throwing strikes and going deep into games, O’Reilly has done well for himself. For his brief minor league career, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound righthander is 13-3 with a 1.99 ERA. Over 135 2/3 innings, he has allowed 87 hits. He has 133 strikeouts against 17 walks. Between the two teams he has played for this season, he has a 0.67 WHIP and teams are hitting a measly .156 against him.

So, yes, life as a professional baseball player has been good to O’Reilly, an all-state player from Shoreham-Wading River High School who received the Carl Yastrzemski Award, given annually to the most outstanding high school player in Suffolk County.

“Everything’s been great so far this year,” O’Reilly, 22, told the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Monday. He continued: “It’s been a lot of fun. I had some success and been lucky to play with great teammates.”

What has been the secret to O’Reilly’s success?

“Just get ahead of hitters [in the count] and attack the strike zone and good things will happen,” he said.

O’Reilly, who has a slider, changeup and curveball to complement a 90 mph fastball, said one of the biggest impressions pro ball has made on him is “just how good everyone else is. There’s a lot of talent out there.”

That includes O’Reilly, who has been a starting pitcher virtually his entire playing career. Among his highlights this season have been a career-high 12 strikeouts in a one-hit shutout for Peoria last month at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a no-hit bid in which he allowed only one hit in 8 1/3 innings in a 1-0 Peoria win over the Beloit Snappers in May. “I noticed in like the fifth inning that people started moving away so I was kind of sitting by myself for the last couple of innings,” he said of that game in a video interview posted on mlb.com.

O’Reilly was named a mid-season all star and a pitcher of the week while playing for Peoria.

Mild mannered and serious, O’Reilly hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He has fond memories of his time in Shoreham playing for the Wildcats.

“Shoreham was amazing,” he said in Monday’s interview. “It was a great time. It was one of the best times of my career.”

It’s a career that appears to be moving up.

“I’ve always wanted to play professionally,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do it my whole life and it’s a dream come true.”

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Photo caption: Mike O’Reilly pitching for the Peoria Chiefs, for whom he went 9-2, with a 1.75 ERA this season. (Credit: courtesy photo)