Athlete of the week: Kyle Connelly, Zimmerman, baseball: Ace of the staff

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

As much as Kyle Connelly has contributed in baseball and basketball at Zimmerman, it’s surprising to hear that his first sport was hockey.

“My dad wanted to make me a hockey player,” chuckled Kyle, who played through mites. “He and his brothers played (at Burnsville) and they were coaches in youth hockey. I have a cousin, Brian Connelly, who plays in the NHL (with Calgary, formerly with Chicago).”

Kyle Connelly has made all-conference both as a baseball pitcher and basketball guard. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Kyle thought there was “a little too much yelling” in hockey, and preferred to shoot baskets anyway. And that’s fine with Donald Connelly. “My dad is just happy that I’m doing something I like,” said Kyle.

Connelly is a four-year starter in baseball as an infielder (usually shortstop) and pitcher. He has been a mound mainstay for three years, with 14 wins and the school’s only no-hitter in his ledger.

He helped the Thunder reach the baseball section finals in 10th grade. They fell one game short, but, in basketball his junior year, the Thunder  completed the job and became their school’s first state team in any sport,  losing a barn-burner to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 61-58 at Williams Arena. Connelly saw regular action off the bench that year. He was an all-conference guard this year, helping ZHS win the Granite Ridge Conference title.

“I like basketball but my favorite sport by far is baseball, especially pitching,” said Connelly, who has a 14-8 career record and 2.20 ERA, with 143 strikeouts against 51 walks in 153 innings. At the plate his career average is .312  with 52 runs and 44 RBI. In the field he’s got a .960 career percentage.

He was all-conference and team MVP as a junior when he hit .345 with  a 5-4 record and three saves. He’s 2-2 so far this year.

“His presence on the mound is what makes him good,” said coach Matt Kraus.  “He’s got the three C’s — cool, calm, and collected. He doesn’t let anything get to him. He’s got a good curve that he can place on a dime, and works batters inside and outside real well.”

Connelly fired a six-inning no-hitter against Becker on May 4, 2010, winning 10-0, with six strikeouts and no walks. An even bigger outing came later when he went the distance in 10-6 section win over eventual state runner-up Delano .

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound righthander has been clocked at 84 mph (last year). “I try to get ahead with my fast ball and get the strikeout with the curve or blow one past them,” said Connelly, who also slips in a cutter and changeup.

As an energetic, sharp-shooting guard in basketball, Connelly was one of four all-GRC picks for the  23-5 Thunder. He averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 assists,  led the team with 40.3 percent 3-point shooting (27-for-67), and set a career free-throw-shooting record of 78.2 percent over three years.

“I worked on shooting a lot. I’m not the tallest guy,” said Connelly, whose marksmanship keyed road victories over the two main conference rivals. His  3-pointer at the horn beat Cathedral 60-59, and his career-high 26 led a 71-66 win over Little Falls.

“Kyle could really hit from the corner. That was  his spot,” said coach Ben Kvidt, adding that Connelly was heads-up, reliable, unselfish, good-humored and very athletic. “He was just a fun kid to have on the team.”

A member of ZHS’s best-ever class of basketball players, nine strong, he reflected, “We beat a lot of teams that had really good individuals. We were just a better team.”

But it’s all baseball from now on. He’s hoping to win a few more games for Zimmerman before resuming his career at Concordia-St. Paul next year. He wants to be a teacher and coach.

 

THE CONNELLY SCORECARD

Kyle Connelly

Personal file – Age: 18 … Family: parents, Don and Rhonda; sister, Kristen, 15 … Sports: basketball, baseball … Other activities: National Honor Society … Academics: 3.7 GPA … College plans: Concordia-St. Paul, history major, baseball .. Ambition: be history teacher, baseball/basketball coach

Favorite stuff – Class: history, economics … TV shows: “The Office,” “Tosh.O” … Movie:  “Shooter” …. Food: Chinese … Drink: Vitamin Water, chocolate milk … Teams: Miami Heat, Boston Red Sox … Athlete: LaBron James … Kickback: golf, fishing, Twins games, hanging out with my girlfriend … Would like to visit: Rome, and a tour of ballparks around the USA

 

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