T’Bird ace gets the ball for home opener
Baseball: Southpaw Conor Lillis-White has dream season at UBC
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 06:00 am
The hottest T-bird in B.C. will be parked on the mound for the Dawgs’ home-opener.
UBC Thunderbird ace Conor Lillis-White will have the ball for the Okotoks Dawgs’ home-opener June 5 against the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
The big start is just a continuation of a dream season for Lillis-White.
“It was a breakout season for me,” Lillis-White said of his Junior year at UBC. “I had a Freshman-year I was pretty happy with but then I hit a Sophomore slump.
“I had some inconsistencies my first two years and I think people were waiting to see which Conor Lillis-White was coming out.”
The wait was worth it.
The left-handed hurler finished with an 8-0 record and a microscopic 0.46 ERA. He was named an honourable mention in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics all-star team.
It was all a matter of staying ahead of the batters.
“This year it was all about getting strike one and consistently being able to pound the zone with my fastball which set up some advantageous counts for me,” Lillis-White said. “I was able to get strikeouts and weak groundball outs.”
Once he got ahead on the count with the heater, here came Uncle Charlie, the curveball. Or in Lillis-White’s case, call it Sir Charles.
“Since I started pitching primarily when I was 16 or 17, it was always a good pitch for me in high school,” he said. “In college, I picked up my velocity and that also helped my breaking ball.”
He estimates his fastball hits the low 90s.
The Toronto native grew up an avid Jays fan. It’s no surprise his favourite player was crafty Jays ace Roy Halladay.
“I grew up 15 minutes from the ballpark and I saw a lot of games,” Lillis-White said. “Roy Halladay was the guy — every young pitcher in Toronto looked up to him.”
Just like Halladay, Lillis-White hopes to evolve from a thrower to a pitcher.
“I think I was just a thrower my first two years at UBC,” Lillis-White said. “Since I got to college, I could throw the ball fairly hard, but there were days when I felt I wasn’t sure I knew where it was going.
“I still have a lot of strides to make in commanding the ball consistently in keeping the ball down, but I think what I established this year will help me get successful.”
He wants to improve his pitching during his 2 month stay in Big Rock Country.
“I want to get in the best shape I can and I would like to develop a change-up that I can use more effectively and I have more confidence in,” he said. “I told myself on days teams are catching up with my fastball and they are getting wood on my breaking ball, I want to be able to go to my change-up.
“A change up will serve me well in my future.”
This isn’t Lillis-White’s first stint in the WMBL. He played for the Moose Jaw Millers in 2012.
“I was here for the breast cancer awareness day and that was pretty special,” he said.
He was convinced to give the Dawgs a try about fellow T’Birds and now Dawgs teammates Brendan Rose and Jerod Bartnik.
“They just told me nothing but good things about there experiences in Okotoks and I know my coaches were keen on sending me here,” Lillis-White said. “I have been here two days and so far, it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Lillis-White is expected to throw out the first pitch at around 7:05 p.m. Thursday for the home-opener.