O'Neal and Bennett shine at the next level

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The North Zulch High School graduate made eight appearances, third most among the freshmen, through 46 games and led the freshmen with three victories. The right-hander, who suffered one loss, had a 5.68 earned run average.

Out of high school, O'Neal had walk-on opportunities for Division I programs, but he said, "I just didn't want to do that."

He chose a junior college, especially one closer to home, over Division II and National Intercollegiate Athletic Association schools. "It's been working out pretty good so far," he said about his choice.

He has been throwing the fastball, curveball, changeup and slider, the latter of which he added during the fall. "It has really late break," he said about the slider. "It comes out of the same arm slot as the fastball."

His velocity topped at 92 mph in the fall, he said, and he has reached the upper 80s this spring.

O'Neal suffered a loss in his debut, surrendering four earned runs on one hit in two innings of the start. He allowed five bases on balls.

"I was not executing my pitches," he said. "My form got a little shaky. I was just trying to throw too hard instead of just being smooth."

He settled himself in his subsequent outing, the first of two wins in consecutive March relief appearances. He allowed one hit in a scoreless inning against Neosho County, then allowed one hit and one earned run in one inning against Fort Scott for the next win.

"I need to not overthrow," he said. "Trust my mechanics and the grips."

Men's golf

Texas A & M University freshman Sam Bennett placed 20th in stroke play at the Southeastern Conference Championship. The Madisonville High product shot 212 (70-69-73), second among the Aggies. He won a match play semifinal against Arkansas after losing a match play quarterfinal against Georgia in the championship tournament.

University of Houston junior Logan Young shot 229 (77-77-75) at the American Athletic Conference Championship. The Normangee High alumnus tied for 40th and was fifth among the Cougars.

Send updates about area athletes to Barbara Boxleitner at jdanddoc@gmail.com.

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