Irvington Baseball Standout to Play on Ireland Junior National Team
by Tom Pedulla –
Liam Toolan’s passion for baseball will take him far this summer after the Irvington High School standout earned a place on Ireland’s Junior National Team.
The team, for players 18 and under who were born in Ireland or whose parents or grandparents were born there, will use scrimmages and games in June to prepare for the European Baseball Championships in Grosseto, Italy from July 9-15. The parents of Lisa Brennan, Toolan’s mother, were born in Ireland.
Toolan, 16, is expected to be used primarily as an outfielder, but he offers extraordinary versatility with the ability to also play in the middle infield and pitch. The right-handed hitter led Irvington with a .429 batting average to go with three home runs, 14 RBI, 24 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts last year as a sophomore.
As a right-hander, he pitched in nine games with four starts, compiling a 1-1 record with a 2.36 ERA last season. He struck out 30 batters in 32-2/3 innings.
Toolan said of the chance to play abroad, “It’s just an honor to be a part of it. It’s going to be a great experience. I’ll get to show what I can do, hopefully. And, hopefully, we’ll get a tournament win.”
Expectations are high for Team Ireland after it rolled through the European Championship Qualifying Tournament last year, outscoring opponents 65-17.
The international stage has the potential to draw attention to Toolan’s skills in his efforts to attend college on a baseball scholarship.
“Section 1 (which covers Westchester and Rockland) is small when you compare it to the big picture,” said Mike DiNardo, Irvington’s baseball coach. “You go out there and put yourself on the world level and compare yourself to the best players in your age group.”
Toolan draws confidence from how well he fared during tryouts.
“It’s definitely more competitive, I would say, but I don’t think it will be too intimidating,” he said. “In baseball, if you get too intimidated, you kind of shut down and things don’t go the right way. So, you’ve got to stay relaxed.”
Toolan has been placed in challenging situations before. He emerged as the starting quarterback for Irvington’s varsity as a freshman and has manned the position since. He was promoted to the varsity baseball team late in his freshman year.
For everything he has already accomplished at Irvington in baseball, Toolan demands more of himself.
“I want to be more consistent. I’m a little streaky,” he said. “When I get that down, I should be solid.”
According to Toolan, he continues to refine his hitting mechanics and believes he is sometimes guilty of over-analyzing.
“I think too much,” he said. “I need to make it more natural instinct.”
Toolan is being forced to make adjustments now that opponents are keenly aware of the damage he can do.
“As you become a better hitter, people approach you differently and it’s not just fastballs,” DiNardo said. “How you attack the zone, picking your spots, it’s a learning period. He’s still only a junior.”
As much as Toolan is excited about what the summer will bring, he is focused on Irvington’s season. The team enjoyed a fast start this spring and boasts a solid nucleus in shortstop Jake Weintraub, infielder Jeff Schrader, third baseman and cleanup hitter Brian Clinton and catcher Zach Schepps.
“We’re looking to do bigger things in the section,” Toolan said, “and make our name known.”
Speaking of names, Toolan immediately found a comfort level when he read the Irish Junior National Team roster. He is one of three players named Liam.