Athlete of the Week -McChesney comes up aces for Kearny with 15 strikeouts

It was the kind of stat line that popped off the screen in such a way that even the pitcher who produced it, William McChesney, did a double-take when he saw it.

Just hours earlier, McChesney had struck out 15 batters in Kearny’s 7-1 victory over Hoboken. And while the senior left-hander knew he had pitched one of the best games of his life, his first reaction was to shoot a text to his coach, wondering if the box score in front of him was a mistake.

“I was very surprised and I texted my coach (Dave Smart) after,” recalled McChesney. “I talked to him and I was like are those stats right? It says, I had 15 (strikeouts). And he was like ‘yeah, you shut them down.’

“I was just super surprised by it. I never thought that I would even come close to that many.”

Indeed, the stat line was correct – a complete game two-hitter with one run, three walks and two hit batters allowed. The 15 strikeouts didn’t just smash McChesney’s previous career best, it was as many as any area pitcher has recorded in a game in recent memory.

McChesney’s dominant performance on the mound makes him The Observer Athlete of the Week.

McChesney’s previous career-high in strikeouts was seven, a total he hit in each of his last three starts last year. Even going back to when he first started pitching in Little League, McChesney couldn’t recall a game where he came close to striking out as many as he did on Monday.

“There was no shot I’d struck out 15 guys before,” McChesney said. “I don’t think in my entire career, did I ever strike out 15 or come near it.”

“We’ve always known that this has been there and we always knew that William had it when he got on the hill,” said Smart. “We were just waiting for that day for everything to come together.

“He’s been working on it all offseason. He’s been going to pitching clinics, he’s been working in the weight room and it’s all showing right now.”

Smart said he’s seen a different player in McChesney this year. As a junior, he was solid as the Kardinals’ No. 2 starter, striking out 36 batters in 29 innings with a 3.38 ERA.

This year, in three appearances, McChesney has a 1.14 ERA in 12.1 innings with 23 strikeouts. He’s walked five batters, a significant improvement in control from a season ago.

“He’s more in control than he’s ever been,” said Smart. “His focus, just his demeanor is very different from what he’s had in the past. He has this confidence this year that, like I said before, we’ve been waiting.

“When he gets on the hill, he looks at it as, this is my mound, you’re standing on my plate and he goes right after you.”

“I finally get to embrace that ace spot and I’m fully loving it,” McChesney said. “I love the pressure that gets put on me and I know I can handle it.”

McChesney credits improved strength for his improvements so far. Now 6-foot-3, McChesney gained an inch in height, while also going from 190 to 180 pounds.

On the mound, the added strength and mobility have allowed him to raise the velocity on his four-seam fastball from the high-70s to what now is a pitch clocked in the 83-85 miles per hour range. In addition, McChesney, who committed to pitch at NJCU this past October, throws a slider, a changeup and a cutter.

In the field, McChesney is now a more than capable outfielder as being exclusively a first baseman before.

At the plate, McChesney is off to the best start of his career, going 9-for-20 (.450) with a homer, eight runs, eight RBI, three triples and four stolen bases. McChesney credits an adjustment Smart made to his batting stance during the preseason that has already allowed him to eclipse last year’s total for runs and RBI. He also said he feels more relaxed at the plate, knowing that he won’t be a hitter again after this season.

McChesney had at least one hit in each of his first six games this season. In addition to his pitching, McChesney had a RBI triple with a run scored against Hoboken. Two days later, he added three RBI in a 9-3 win at Dickinson.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)