Lyndhurst native Pacillo enjoys undefeated year at Seton Hall

Before the 2016 collegiate baseball season began, Anthony Pacillo was making a drastic change in his life.

Pacillo, the Seton Hall University junior left-handed pitcher, believed he struggled somewhat as a starter for the Pirates in 2015, although he still posted a decent 3-4 record with a 4.41 earned run average as a regular member of the Pirates’ starting rotation.

In the power-packed Big East Conference, one game under .500 and an ERA under four and a half is generally considered to be good numbers for a starting pitcher.

But Pacillo, the Lyndhurst native who pitched for St. Peter’s Prep in high school, thought that he had a down sophomore year after a sensational freshman year.

“I struggled a little during my sophomore year,” Pacillo said. “I thought that we had a really talented pitching staff and figured I was better off making a change.”

This was on the heels of a 4-2 freshman campaign with a 2.98 ERA, a year that saw Pacillo earn Freshman All-America honors from Louisville Slugger, was named to the New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-Rookie Team and was selected to the NJCBWA Second Team.

Pacillo had to reinvent himself a little and earn a new spot on the Pirates’ roster.

“I became a reliever,” Pacillo said. “It was a totally new thing for me, but it was the best fit for me. I got the chance and I ran with it.”

Pacillo went from being one of the Sunday starters to an everyday relief pitcher, seeing action in 30 games, totaling 31 2/3 innings, all out of the bullpen.

It was a transformation that worked, because Pacillo pitched to a 2.84 earned run average, lowest on the staff with more than 25 innings pitched. He posted a perfect 5-0 record with one save and allowed just 24 hits.

The numbers were significant, because the Pirates posted a 38-20 record overall and just missed out on an NCAA Regional berth. Pacillo’s performance was vital, because the Pirates only hit .273 as a team with just a paltry 11 home runs all season. It meant that every single run the Pirates scored was sacred and every run they prevented from scoring beyond vital.

“I would like to think that I had a role,” Pacillo said. “Things change when you’re coming from out of the bullpen. You’re throwing harder. Everyone is throwing harder. I had more of a starter’s approach coming from out of the bullpen. I tried to throw as hard as I could for the shortest period of time.”

Pacillo liked his new role.

“I enjoyed coming out of the bullpen,” Pacillo said. “It’s better than throwing just once a week. I can contribute more often and help the team more. Coming out of the bullpen, things can get a little hectic, but in the end, things remain the same. I just have to concentrate and allow as few runs as possible. A lot of the time, I’m coming in and there are runners on base. I love those pressure situations, especially when we’re winning. I just try to shut things down and keep us right there in the ballgame.”

Pacillo thinks that maybe he has found a permanent home. Nothing is sacred and final, especially in college baseball, but perhaps Seton Hall head coach Rob Sheppard will keep Pacillo as his left-handed specialist. At least, Sheppard knows for sure that Pacillo is reliable in either position.

“I do think that a lefty coming out of the bullpen is appealing,” Pacillo said. “I do think there could be a future there for me.”

Pacillo was all set to spend the summer months pitching with the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwood League, a college summer league that solely uses wooden bats. But Pacillo discovered some discomfort in his arm, a pain that hindered him during the last month of the season, so the move to Wisconsin is currently on hold.

“I guess I was pitching too much and developed some arm tightness,” Pacillo said. “We’re good to go right now, but it might be better to rest a little.”

All in all, Pacillo has embraced the life of the lefty reliever. It could be his role moving forward to possibly the professional level.

“I thought I made the most of it,” Pacillo said. “We have a ton of talented pitchers coming back from a great pitching staff, so maybe this is where I belong. Whatever my role is next year, I’ll be ready to go. This was a little bit of a comeback year for me. I’ll take 5-0 (Pacillo’s record) any time.”

So will the Pirates _ for that matter.


Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”