By Jeff Nations
Patrick McGrath considers himself a pitcher, first and foremost.
McGrath, a senior at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy, still has to take his cuts in the batter's box for the Patriots. With that in mind, McGrath got in a bit of work in the batting cage two weeks ago to iron out a few kinks in his swing.
"I was struggling a little bit just a couple days before, so I was working really hard to find my swing," McGrath said. "I was a little rusty, but I guess I just found it that day. I went in the cages for a couple days and worked really hard and fixed a couple things."
So it would appear, judging by McGrath's two-day output in back-to-back wins against Fresta Valley Christian and Ridgeview Christian. McGrath was a scorching 8-for-10 at the plate with four doubles, eight RBIs and six runs scored for the Patriots. He still found time to do a little pitching, as well, firing three scoreless innings in relief to earn the win against Ridgeview.
For his efforts, McGrath is The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for May 4-10.
SVCA coach Bobby Wheelock said McGrath has a tendency to downplay his hitting ability, but that two-game span showed the kind of power the 6-foot-2 right-hander can generate at the plate. In the Ridgeview Christian game, McGrath finished with three doubles and Wheelock thought he probably deserved four but his scorekeeper ruled it a single and an error.
"One went off the fence and the others were hit in the gap," Wheelock said. "He's not slow, but he's not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination. He was hitting the ball hard."
The season ended for McGrath and the Patriots on Tuesday night with a 12-2 loss to Westover Christian in the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics state quarterfinals. The Patriots finished an up-and-down season with a 7-10 record.
"Our team chemistry has been the same all year," McGrath said. "I've never seen anybody down after a loss. Some games we seemed to click, and others we didn't. That's just baseball."
McGrath had a major impact on SVCA's success this season. A transfer from Clarke County High School, McGrath slotted right into the Patriots' rotation as a dependable No. 1 starter and played shortstop when he wasn't pitching. McGrath led the Patriots in innings and finished with three complete games, and swatted eight doubles as he batted better than .400 for the season.
His connections with Clarke County also helped McGrath land a spot pitching next season at Potomac State, traditionally a strong junior-college program based in nearby Keyser, W.Va. McGrath was talked into attending a winter camp at Potomac State by his former Clarke County teammate Ethan Emmart, who plays for the Catamounts.
McGrath drew the attention of Potomac State coach Doug Little, and soon enough he'd agreed to join the program.
"No one had ever really told me I had potential to play in college," McGrath said. "I'm going there to pitch. I'm not sure if it will be as a [reliever] or starter."
Wheelock will miss McGrath, the player he said "carried us" as a pitcher and wasn't half-bad with a bat in his hands, either.
"He's had a great attitude," Wheelock said. "Throughout this year, he's been a good teammate. He's not the kind of kid when an error is made behind him who lets that bother him."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>