Coolahan brothers doing all the right things for Shawnee baseball

Shawnee shortstop Connor Coolahan (left) smacks gloves with his brother Jake before an inning against Haddon Heights on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

As a clever righthander who pitches to contact, Shawnee senior Jake Coolahan relies heavily on his defense, especially his shortstop.

That almost always works out since the Renegades have a top glove man at the position in sophomore Connor Coolahan.

But no shortstop makes every play.

"When a play should have been made, I let him know," Jake Coolahan said with a smile. "And we tend to bring it home."

Shawnee (17-4) has been one of the surprise teams of the baseball season, clinching at least a share of the title in the loaded Olympic Conference American Division, earning the No. 3 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament and advancing to the second round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic for the first time in more than a decade.

The Coolahan brothers have been front and center in the Renegades' resurgence, and each has been something of a revelation in his own way.

After pitching in just three varsity games as a junior and working a total of fewer than 10 innings, Jake Coolahan has emerged as a mainstay of the rotation. He's 6-0 with a 1.17 ERA. He has 23 strikeouts and just eight walks in 36 innings.

"It's pretty amazing," Jake Coolahan said. "I came in with the mindset that this was my senior year, and I was going to do something. But I never thought I would be 6-0 at this point."

Coolahan isn't an especially hard thrower. But he has good movement and command, features a wicked curveball and sometimes will drop down into a side-arm motion to further confound hitters.

Coolahan's emergence has been especially important for Shawnee since the Renegades have been without junior pitchers Dylan Devenney and Sean Heine for much of the season because of injuries.

"Jake waited his turn," Shawnee coach Brian Anderson said. "For him to be 6-0 at this point with an ERA around 1.2, it's really an incredible story.

"It just shows how much he's matured and his persistence."

Shawnee senior rightfielder Jax Luzinski, one of the team's top hitters, said Coolahan has been "awesome" on the mound for the Renegades.

"We have so much confidence in him," Luzinski said.

One key to Jake Coolahan's success has been the Shawnee defense. In Monday's 8-3 win over Haddon Heights in the Diamond Classic, third baseman Hunter Coraggio made a couple of nifty plays, and catcher Colin Wettereau and second baseman Max Milano have been dependable as well.

But the team's top defensive player might be Connor Coolahan, who has stepped into the shortstop spot as a 10th grader and solidified the infield.

"He's been outstanding," Shawnee assistant coach Tim Welsh said. "When the ball's hit, you just know he's going to make the play - routine plays, tough plays. We have total confidence in him."

Connor Coolahan also has been a good hitter. He bats second in the lineup and has a .302 average. He is among the team leaders in runs (13), hits (16) and walks (8).

"His defense has been great," Anderson said. "But at the plate, he's been so valuable. He's batting over .300. He can bunt for a hit, sacrifice, hit and run. He has great bat control, and his willingness to do anything we need up there has spread to the whole team."

As did his brother, Connor Coolahan entered this season determined to make an impact for the Renegades.

"I was hoping I could do it," Connor Coolahan said. "That was my goal."

The brothers have been competitive with each other for most of their lives, especially when they both were wrestling for a Medford youth program coached by their father.

This past offseason, both Coolahans played for the same travel team, the All-Out Baseball program.

"For him to do what he's done as a sophomore, it's unbelievable," Jake Coolahan said of his younger brother. "I didn't know he was this good."

Connor Coolahan said it's special to play shortstop for Shawnee with his older brother on the mound.

"It's a lot of fun," Connor Coolahan said. "He's done such a great job. He throws a lot of easy ground balls."