GCC grad Pellis finds comfort zone with Seton Hill
Tommy Pellis tried to make it work at Penn, tried to find solace in his environment on and off the baseball diamond.
He gave it two years in Philadelphia — more than enough time, he thought, to try to blend in and become established.
But coming to terms with the reality that his situation, no matter how alluring it seemed, was more taxing and confining than he would have liked, set him on his way to a better place.
And who knew that better place was so close to home all along?
Pellis dismissed what might have passed as grandiose delusions of playing Division I baseball and made the move to D-II Seton Hill, a transfer that has been beneficial to both sides.
He is back in the comfort zone, and the Griffins have themselves a power-hitting junior with speed and top-level skills.
“I tried to stick it,” Pellis said of Penn. “But it wasn’t the place for me. I wasn’t going to reach my full baseball potential there. It was nice to know I could come home and have a second chance.”
Pellis, a former Greensburg Central Catholic star who hit over .700 as a senior, a mark that stands as a WPIAL single-season record, has been instant offense for the Griffins.
He recently pulled in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division Player of the Week honors as the Griffins put together a 4-1 stretch to even their record at 8-8.
“We’re happy to have him,” said Griffins sophomore pitcher Neal McDermott, another GCC product. “We’ve known each other for years. He fit right in.”
Through 16 games, Pellis was hitting the high notes to the tune of a team-best .391 average with 17 runs, five home runs and 17 RBIs. He also had a team-leading nine stolen bases in 10 tries.
“Coming home was a big adjustment, but it’s been a good thing for me,” Pellis said. “I always had a lot of confidence in myself, but it just came down to trusting my preparation and my coaches were helping me and getting the best out of me. I really like being here.”
Welcomed by coaches and accepted by teammates, Pellis is swinging with confidence, sans holier-than-though arrogance.
“Tommy coming here, he just needed a change in scenery,” Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi said. “He was very confident in his ability. He absolutely did not come in here with a ‘I’m from the Ivy League. I’m from Division I,’ (attitude) mainly because he viewed this as an opportunity for a fresh start. He is very close with his family, and he has inserted himself into our team, which is also a very family-oriented type of atmosphere.”
Hitting No. 3 or 4 in the lineup, Pellis has more homers in a few weeks of his junior season than he did in his first two years at the college level.
“I am seeing the ball well and just going with the approach of being aggressive,” Pellis said. “I am trying to hunt pitches and make sure I get off my best swing.”
Family members and friends from high school have been to a few games to see Pellis, even though winter hasn’t altogether released its grip to give way to spring-like conditions. The Griffins recently played a home game as snow fell.
“In every way,” Pellis said of Seton Hill, “I love it.”
Said Marizzaldi: “He earned the respect of our players from Day 1. Not because of his talent, but because of his humility and work ethic. He was very grateful for the opportunity.”
Pellis committed early to Penn coming out of GCC. Seton Hill pursued him initially and even had him in for a visit, but Marizzaldi figured Pellis could not pass up a chance to play in the Ivy League.
“I understood his combination of athletic and academic success in high school earned him that opportunity,” Marizzaldi said, “which was a good one at the time.”
As a sophomore, he started seven games and batted .167 with four RBIs.
His progression seemed stunted after he made 27 starts as a freshman and hit .250 as a designated hitter with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Pellis, once labeled the Baseball America Ivy League Preseason Rookie of the Year, did not like the way things were trending.
The opposite now is true.
“I always have expectations for myself,” Pellis said. “Everyone on the team has pretty high expectations of me. I am going to keep trying to play the best I can, and, hopefully, we get more and more wins.”
Tom McCarthy was an all-region third baseman and played the position for the last two years and left a void when he graduated. Pellis was a natural fill-in there.
“That was his best natural position,” Marizzaldi said. “He filled it in a way a true freshman can’t. He had that experience of being an all-star in a summer league. We didn’t have to expect that learning curve. We can plug him in the three-hole in the order, and let’s go.”
Having been through the recruiting process and tested the Division I waters, Pellis can offer advice to potential Division I players who may choose image and mystique over contentment.
“My message would be make sure you take your time with your decisions,” Pellis said. “Don’t rush into anything. Really try to envision yourself in the future and think about what is most important to you from your college and baseball experience, and then go from there.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .