By Chris McDaniel | Wicked Local Brockton
Will Cournan feels more comfortable when he feels nerves before a baseball game.
There were plenty of nerves when he took the mound on July 7 against the Canton A's for the Weymouth Shamrocks in Cranberry Baseball League action. It was his first real game action in a long time.
The Pembroke native and Cardinal Spellman graduate plays on the Babson College baseball team. Playing for one of the top-ranked Division 3 programs in the country, playing time would have been hard to earn this spring for Cournan. With the coronavirus canceling the season just three games into the season in mid-March, Cournan did not get into a game. As a freshman in 2019, Cournan did not see any game action as the Beavers reached the College World Series for the first time in program history.
Cournan corralled his nerves and made a solid debut in the Cranberry League. Although the Shamrocks lost to the A's on July 7, Cournan pitched 3 2/3 innings while allowing one earned run on two hits and striking out four. He returned to the mound on Sunday as the Shamrocks swept the Bourne Mariners in a doubleheader. In one of those games, Cournan pitched 2 2/3 innings without allowing a run.
For those pitching performances, Cournan was named the Cranberry League's Pitcher of the Week.
"I kind of feel a little bit more uncomfortable if I don't have those butterflies in my stomach before a game," said Cournan. "It's part of the routine at this point. I was definitely nervous, but I have learned how to control those nerves at this point and they've become a little bit of comfort for me."
Cournan's season debut came on the first day of the season.
"We got out there the first day and everybody felt a little rusty," said Cournan. "Even the umpires told me, 'Hey, we're going to be a little rusty today.' It was everybody's first time back but it was definitely an experience to hop on the field for the first time in awhile. I had a great defense behind me making the plays, and everybody puts it together once you realize you're all there to win a baseball game."
Although he has yet to appear in a game during his two years at Babson, Cournan has thoroughly enjoyed his time at one of the best baseball programs in New England. When the 2020 season concluded, Babson was ranked No. 3 nationally in the d3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 25 poll.
"I was going to have to work for a spot, big time," said Cournan of the cancelled 2020 season at Babson. "My coach makes it so everybody has to work for their spot. You've got to prove yourself when you're out there, you've got to throw strikes. I wasn't expecting much, playing-wise, this year but I was hoping to work my way into a bigger role. Hopefully I'm going to be able to do that next year, but it's all about competing every day at practice there."
During Cournan's first year at Babson, the Beavers finished 39-10 and reached the program's first College World Series. Despite not getting into any game action, the season was an unforgettable one for Cournan.
"My favorite thing about the Babson team is the guys ahead of us," said Cournan. "That senior class that I played with my freshman year had a bunch of role models that I still talk to every day and I still look up to. They taught us how to compete, how to take everything seriously. All the little things mean so much once you get to that point in the season.
"It was really cool to have that experience early on in my college career because now it's the benchmark."
Coming out of Cardinal Spellman as a two-time Enterprise All-Scholastic as a pitcher and infielder, Babson gave Cournan the option to pursue either position. He quickly realized he needed to focus on one spot to compete at that level.
"We have, I would go as far to say, one of the top pitching staffs in all of the country for Division 3," said Cournan. "It's insanely competitive. Day in and day out, you're working for a spot. I'm just trying to do the best that I can to be the pitcher that I want to be and hopefully I find a niche over there as a way to help the team."
Cournan recently has started throwing a curveball to add to his repertoire, which also includes a slider. He said that added pitch, coupled with good command that allowed him to get ahead early in counts, led to his early success in the Cranberry League.
"Will is an unreal teammate and (I'm) so glad he is part of the Shamrocks," said Weymouth general manager Jim Dolan. "Will is a great competitor and is no doubt a team-first guy. He wants the ball on the mound, but he will do whatever it takes for his team to win."
One of Cournan's teammates on the Shamrocks is his younger brother, Griff. Griff is an outfielder who recently graduated from Cardinal Spellman and will play at Wentworth next spring as a freshman.
"I love it," said Will of playing with his brother. "I don't know how much he loves it because I'm always on his case about his swing. I'm trying to do my part to get him better because I feel like I know him as a player better than anybody."
"I love Will and Griff," said Dolan. "They come from a great family and it is really cool seeing them play together this summer."
During Will's senior season at Spellman, Griff was also on the varsity roster.
"We're both trying to be big energy guys on the bench and on the field," said Will. "He usually does a little bit of a better job at that than me. Even if he's not playing, any team I've been on with him he's a huge part of the team just because of the energy he brings. It's been really cool to be on a team with him."
Griff Cournan also had a solid debut this summer. Playing his first game against Bourne on Sunday, Cournan had a hit, stole a base, was hit by a pitch and scored two runs in a 4-0 win. Will picked up the win on the mound.
Wentworth and Babson do not play in the same conference, but Will is hoping to compete against his brother at the collegiate level before he graduates.