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Brothers in the outfield

This is the fourth install­ment in a series of pro­files of brothers and sis­ters who play for the same ath­letic team at North­eastern. To read the pre­vious three, click here, here, and here.

Last spring, in a reg­ular season game at the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina-​​Wilmington, Huskies center fielder Connor Lyons made like Ken Griffey Jr., crashing into the out­field wall after making an over-​​the-​​shoulder catch. The impact of the col­li­sion broke his col­lar­bone, forcing him to miss the final 14 games of the team’s 2013 campaign.

“It wasn’t inten­tional,” Lyons jokes. And yet, he explains, “In the heat of the moment, I’ll do any­thing to get the ball.”

Connor’s win-​​at-​​all-​​costs style of play runs in the Lyons family. His older brother, Sean, the red and black’s left fielder, plays with an envi­able level of verve. “I like the pres­sure,” he says, noting his propen­sity to fire-​​up his teammates with an impas­sioned speech. “I’m always trying to help the team win any way I can.”

Small wonder their team­mates voted the Lyons brothers co-​captains of the club, which has played .500 base­ball for the majority of the 2014 season. “The other players respect them,” says man­ager Neil McPhee, who will retire in May following 29 years as Northeastern’s skipper. “Sean’s a vocal leader,” he adds, “while Connor’s more of a leader on the field.”

Both have per­formed well at the plate. Connor, a 5-​​foot-​​8-​​inch, 165-​​pound leadoff hitter, is tops on the team with a .358 bat­ting average, 68 hits, and 41 runs scored. Sean, who strug­gled to string together productive at-​​bats at the begin­ning of the season, is now hit­ting .252 and is just one of four Huskies with at least one home run despite his 5-​​foot-​​7-​​inch, 160-​​pound frame.

“Connor brings a spark to the team,” McPhee says. “He has a knack for get­ting big hits during big sit­u­a­tions.” Sean, he notes, “has a very good eye at the plate and under­stands his role very well.”

Like any good ballplayer, the Lyons brothers know that achieving suc­cess depends on making adjust­ments. Connor, who hit .295 in 403 career at-​​bats in his first three sea­sons, notes that his improved hit­ting prowess is the product of count­less hours of pre-​​game tee work. “In pre­vious years, I would try to hit the ball harder than I should,” he says. “Now, I’m just trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched.”

His brother’s resur­gence at the plate is a result of his deci­sion to start swinging ear­lier in the count. “I’m trying to be more aggres­sive,” says Sean, who changed his approach after amassing just 11 hits in his first 52 at-​​bats. “I tended to strike out more when I tried to walk.”

The Lyons brothers figure to get at least 25 plate appearances apiece between now and the begin­ning of the Colo­nial Ath­letic Asso­ci­a­tion Tour­na­ment, the fourth and final playoff appear­ance of their col­le­giate careers. But both Sean and Connor foresee more base­ball in their futures.

Sean, SSH’14, hopes to work as a coach for a small collegiate pro­gram. Connor, S’14, says he might be selected in June’s MLB Draft. “I’ve been in con­tact with a few teams,” he explains. “Hope­fully they like me as much as I like them.”

Pro scouts are no doubt aware of Connor’s dynamic defense, which is pred­i­cated on his speed and reac­tion time. “He is quite pos­sibly the best defen­sive center fielder I have ever coached,” McPhee says of Connor, who boasts a team-​​best .991 fielding per­centage. “He has a great gift for get­ting good jumps on balls and run­ning them down in the gaps.”

– By Jason Kornwitz

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