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Catapano clicking his ‘Heels’ in Omaha

Rob Catapano is headed to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. with the team he idolized as a young boy.

The former Farragut High School All-American and two-time All-state southpaw pitcher, helping the Admirals win three state titles, is along for the ride as a freshman bullpen arm for the highly ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

“First off, it’s been a fun experience — and definitely a learning experience this year,” said Catapano, who has a 4.38 earned run average and 1-1 record in 25 games (12 1/3 innings) as a relief pitcher. “It’s fun being around all the older guys who played for the national championship [2006] and watching ’em on T-V last year, then actually being up here and playing for them this year.”

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound freshman has not pitched in the NCAA Tournament.

“I did a good job at the beginning of the year coming in and throwing strikes,” Catapano said. “But I kinda struggled in the middle of the year.

“I’ve learned a lot coming in as a relief pitcher instead of a starting pitcher this year,” he added. “I’ve learned how to deal with adversity and how to overcome it. I’ve had some ups and downs this season, but just trying to stay on a steady line and work hard and improve on some stuff and hopefully be a starter next year.”

Catapano compared being a reliever to being a starter: “Instead of building up and getting better as you go along, each inning you’ve just kinda got to let it all hang out; learn how to come in in tight situations and throw strikes right away and locate your pitches.

“Definitely a lot of pressure on yah,” he added, “but I think it’s good for every person to go through that to learn that there’s more than just being a starting pitcher out there.”

The former FHS standout lefty, finishing with a 36-3 high school career record, said his first few weeks as a Tar Heel were “definitely” overwhelming.

“Being in the same locker room with all those guys is a little bit intimidating at first,” he said. “But they welcome you with open arms, it’s a great team here, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Catapano’s job on the field wasn’t as overwhelming as it might have been.

“I think a lot of my credit is to coach [Tommy] Pharr, a lot of the fundamentals and things that he’s taught me we practice here,” the 19-year-old said about his high school head coach. “It’s not overwhelming, the things they’re asking us to do, because I’ve done ’em before. Just competing at a higher level, really.”

Catapano said his 2008 goal is to be in the regular starting rotation.

Facing 37 batters, the former Ad has one save and nine strikeouts while allowing six earned runs and nine walks. Opponents hit .297 against Catapano.


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