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Connellsville grad caps St. Vincent career with record-breaking effort

| Saturday, June 6, 2015, 1:31 a.m.
John Malone hit .464 to set a record for the Saint Vincent baseball team in 2015.
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John Malone hit .464 to set a record for the Saint Vincent baseball team in 2015.

John Malone always trusted his abilities as a baseball player. However, his talent wasn't on full display until his senior season at St. Vincent College.

Once Malone was given a chance to shine, he certainly made the most of his opportunity.

Malone, a 2011 graduate of Connellsville High School, hit .464 for the Bearcats this spring. He finished as the leading hitter in the Presidents' Athletic Conference and broke the St. Vincent College single-season batting average record of .449, which stood for 13 seasons.

“I was a little surprised,” Malone said. “But I worked countless hours hitting off the tee and my preparation was extensive.”

Malone originally was recruited as a catcher, but after his freshman season, he was asked to make the switch to relief pitcher. Malone earned his first victory during his junior season, but with only three plate appearances under his belt heading into his senior campaign, Malone knew he had more to offer the team.

“There were countless times when I went into the coaches office and told them that I could help the team in a bigger role,” Malone said.

Prior to the season, Malone saw a chance to become an everyday player.

“I knew that our first baseman wouldn't be able to play (due to injury) and that gave me incentive to work harder,” Malone said. “In the first game, I didn't see my name in the lineup, and I was disappointed. But I just told myself that whenever you get a chance, you have to make a name for yourself.”

Malone's chance came during the Bearcats' spring training trip to Florida. He was used as a pinch-hitter in a game, followed by a start as a designated hitter. It didn't take long for him to start contributing at the plate as he hit a walk-off double in a victory over SUNY-Oneonta.

As the season went on, Malone continued to hit. He earned the starting spot at first base but still managed to post two victories as a relief pitcher. He also went the entire season without committing an error.

While the Bearcats failed to qualify for the postseason, it will still be a season to remember for Malone.

He noted that he and teammate Eddie Kilkeary (.436) had friendly competitions to see who could get the most hits in each game. But it wasn't until near the end of the season in which Malone started to think about putting his name in the record book.

“During the season, I didn't think about it,” Malone said. “My goal was to get timely hits and try to help us win and make the playoffs. We didn't make the playoffs, but toward the end of the season, I saw my average and I knew I had a chance to break the record and win the conference batting title. It's something that I will definitely be able to look back on, and it's a great thing.”

Malone also finished with the fifth-highest batting average among all players in NCAA Division III. For his play during the season, Malone was the winner of the Bearcats' John Granish Award, given to athletes that make the most of their talent.

“Johnny was one of our leaders,” St. Vincent College coach Mick Janosko said. “He led by example. He worked hard in the weight room to make himself stronger, and he made himself a better athlete. The last four years, to see him grow as a player and a person was tremendous.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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