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BLACK BEARS GET MULHALL’D: University High alum returns home to play in MLB Draft League

GRANVILLE — Ross Mulhall believed he had it all figured out.

That was until life threw him a giant curveball back in 2020, one that may have brushed him back a bit.

He has since gotten back up, dusted himself off and just may be back on track to a professional baseball career.

The former University High standout now finds himself playing first base for the West Virginia Black Bears, who lost to Frederick (Md.) 15-7 in the home opener at Mon County Ballpark on Tuesday.

Mulhall went 0 for 5 in the loss, but the fact the former state Gatorade Player of the Year still finds himself enjoying the game is a major step in the right direction.

“Guys in this (MLB Draft League) bounce around a lot,” Mulhall said. “I’ve been there. I know all about that.”

It’s here we take you back to 2020. Mulhall had just finished his second season at LaSalle and was working his way to becoming an everyday Division I player.

Then came COVID-19, and officials at LaSalle decided to drop the baseball program. It was one of seven sports eliminated by the school for financial reasons.

“They told us over a Zoom call,” Mulhall said. “It was really out of the blue.”

There was an initial scramble to find another school.

“Some of my teammates didn’t find another school,” Mulhall said. “That right there gave me a new appreciation for this game. To see how it can all end so quickly, I mean, I saw a lot of guys have their careers cut short. I really try to enjoy my experiences in this game a lot more.”

Mulhall first landed at Gardner-Webb, but he was there for just a semester when he decided to move on through the transfer portal.

He landed at Shepherd University, under head coach Matt McCarty.

With the Rams, Mulhall found a new comfort level, and it showed in his numbers.

In 42 games, he batted .356 and his 13 home runs were seventh in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

His highlight came against Mansfield (Pa.) in March, when he hit three home runs and a double and drove in seven in an 18-6 victory.

“The coaches were great and showed a lot of confidence in me,” Mulhall said. “That meant so much to me. This was my first college season where I had 150 at-bats. I needed a chance to prove myself and they gave me that opportunity. I got a chance to get comfortable and I gained a lot of confidence in myself this season.”

Catching on with the Black Bears, Mulhall said, took some work from his coaches in getting his name out there.

“Getting to play back home in this park for the summer is nice,” he said. “It’s also not bad to eat mom’s cooking, too. I’ve played with others who have played (at Mon County Ballpark) and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Doesn’t hurt to have another former University High grad in Jedd Gyorko as your coach.

“The first thing that hit me about Jedd is he’s really humble,” Mulhall said. “He’s very down to Earth. Even though he’s played in the major leagues, he doesn’t act like it.

“He’s been through it all in this sport, the ups and downs, and it’s great to learn from him and just to talk to him about different things.”

Mulhall’s plan is to return to Shepherd for his senior year with the hopes of being able to play professionally after that.

“They say baseball is a game of failure, but you never know who may be out there this summer watching,” he said. “All I can do is go out there and do the best I can this summer and next spring and we’ll see what happens next.

“Having already bounced around a little bit, I’ve learned what appreciating this game is all about.”

Former WVU pitcher Zach Ottinger pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief for the Black Bears (0-5). He allowed two runs on three hits, while striking out three.

Ottinger was a senior with the Mountaineers this season, but has one season of eligibility remaining. He entered the transfer portal and is currently looking for a new school.

Former WVU pitcher Chase Smith also pitched two innings in relief. He allowed three hits on three runs. Smith is out of college eligibility.

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