IN THE DUGOUT: McConnell recovered from knee injury and leading Valley View

May 7—Logan McConnell remembers it all too well.

May 17, 2021. Valley View was playing Abington Heights at PNC Field. Then a sophomore, McConnell was batting and facing a 3-2 count when he swung at a curveball and felt a pop in his knee.

"At first I thought it was my ACL because I've always heard that if you hear a pop it's your ACL," McConnell said. "But when I looked down, my knee was sideways. It completely popped out of place.

"The trainer came out and popped it back into place right on the field. It was pretty scary and it hurt pretty bad. It was devastating mentally, too, because it was right before playoffs and I had to miss the rest of the year."

Now a senior, McConnell is fully recovered from the injury — both physically and mentally — and is leading Valley View as a catcher and a pitcher.

When the injury occurred, McConnell was in the midst of a good sophomore season. He batted .453 (24 for 53) with five doubles, eight runs and 17 RBIs. On the mound, he was 4-0 with a 2.21 earned-run average and 31 strikeouts. He was named a Lackawanna League Division I coaches all-star honorable mention.

While his dislocated knee didn't require surgery, it took several months of physical therapy to heal.

McConnell returned for his junior season, but suffered a bit of a setback.

"I was pitching. It was against Scranton against Schautz Stadium," McConnell said. "A kid hit a ball up the middle and I jumped out of the way and felt it pop out of place again. Luckily it popped back into place again. So the rest of the year I was basically hitting off one leg. I mostly DH'd and pitched but I found a way to get it done."

While he was able to finish the season, McConnell played with the fear mentally that the injury could reoccur.

"It definitely bothered me a lot," he said. "I always thought in the back of my head that one wrong move, it could pop out of place again and my season would be over again. That was the hardest part to overcome."

Still, he batted .345 (20 for 58) with one double, three runs and seven RBIs. He was 2-4 with a 3.53 ERA and 38 strikeouts. He was a Lackawanna Division I coaches all-star at second base.

So far in his senior season, McConnell's knee appears to be completely healthy and it shows. He is batting .358 (19 for 53) with two doubles, 12 runs and eight RBIs. He also has pitched in seven games — five in relief — and is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA. in 20.1 innings, he has struck out 17 and walked only four.

In one of his starts, April 22 against Holy Redeemer, he allowed one run on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts in five innings as the Cougars handed the Royals their first loss, 13-1.

"He's just a good all-around player," Valley View coach Jason Munley said. "A great utility guy, which is nice to have in high school. He can play anywhere — he's unbelievable at third base — but I can't play him at three spots at once."

This season, Munley decided to make McConnell his full-time catcher. McConnell played the position some as a sophomore, but was primarily an infielder as a junior.

"He has a great nose for the game. He understands the game very well," Munley said. "He's great at throwing behind runners. He's very aware of his surroundings, which makes him a great catcher. And he has great leadership skills, which you need at that position."

McConnell has taken to catching. He said he loves the position and being involved in every play during a game. In fact, he plans to continue his athletic and academic career as a catcher at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford while majoring in business.

Being a pitcher has helped him with catching and vice versa.

"It helps me with the umpires' zones," McConnell said. "If I go in to pitch after I'm catching, I kind of know where the ump is calling the pitches. I also know what hitters struggle with, making it easier to get them out. It's giving us an advantage."

Munley has so much confidence in McConnell behind the plate that he allows him to call pitches.

"Mr. Munley helps me out a little bit. If he wants something called, he'll let me know," McConnell said. "But it's been going pretty good. If a hitter calls timeout, I'll go out and ask the pitchers what they want to throw. Or before innings, I'll ask what they want their go-to two-strike pitch to be. I'll put out suggestions, but if they don't want it I'm OK with it. Whatever they think they can get the batter out with."

Catching certainly is a position that puts a lot of wear and tear on the knees. But McConnell said he has had no issues.

"Everything is good now, knock on wood," he said.

Valley View started the season 6-1, but has lost seven of its last nine games. McConnell is confident, though, that the Cougars can turn things around the rest of the way.

"We're going through a little bit of a rough patch right now," McConnell said. "Hopefully we can pull it all together for playoffs. When we're on, I think we're one of the best teams in the area."

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