Sean McNamara pitched in numerous big games in his career with The University of Scranton baseball team from 2014-17. Now, the big righty from Scarsdale, N.Y. is pitching on a much bigger stage as a member of Team Ireland in a European Baseball Championship Qualifier this week in Ashbourne, Ireland.
As of Thursday morning, Team Ireland was 3-0 in the five-team C-Pool Qualifier after posting victories over Norway (15-5 on Monday), Finland (7-0 on Tuesday) and Greece (10-0 on Wednesday). McNamara worked an inning in the victory over Norway on Monday, allowing two runs, one earned, on two hits while striking out one. A day later, he tossed four shutout innings to earn the save against Finland, allowing one hit while striking out two.
McNamara, who won 12 games during his career at Scranton, earned a spot on Team Ireland by sending a video to the team's coaching staff and applying for and earning Irish citizenship. His grandfather was born in Ireland, making him eligible to apply for Irish citizenship. McNamara originally found out about the opportunity through his coach at Fordham Prep, Gary O'Connor, who is a coach on Ireland's 18-U team.
Once he got to Ireland about a week and a half ago, McNamara proved himself on the mound right away.
"I got over here on Saturday, the 14th, and they were already playing a warmup tournament," he said by phone on Thursday. "I stepped off the plane, had about one hour of sleep, I went straight to the field and started the second game of a doubleheader and threw 7 2/3 innings."
From there, it was on to a week of practice before the C-Pool Qualifier started on Monday. A few days before the qualifier started, McNamara was told to be ready to pitch in relief every day.
"Our coach, Donegal Fergus, told me my role would be a reliever coming out of the pen, one to two innings every day," McNamara said. "Monday, I threw one and then Tuesday I threw four. He told me 4-5 days in advance that my role would be out of the pen, hopefully one to two innings every day, so that was exciting."
Team Ireland has 24 players on the roster for the C-Pool Qualifier. According to McNamara, eight are local Irish players, two or three are from Canada and the rest are American. Of the American's on the team, most of them are new to the squad and are 23 years old or younger.
Team Ireland will play its final C-Pool game on Friday when it takes on Slovenia at 5:30 p.m. in Ashbourne (12:30 p.m. EDT). The team is already guaranteed a spot in Saturday's gold medal game at 2 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT), with the winner advancing to next year's B-Pool qualifier. The winner of that event qualifies for the 2019 European Baseball Championship. But, a win on Friday against Slovenia would give Ireland a strong chance to receive an "at-large" spot in next year's B-Pool should the team happen to lose in Saturday's gold medal game.
If Ireland advances to the B-Pool Qualifier next year, McNamara said he is definitely interested in being on the team again, but isn't sure how the selection process will play out.
"I would absolutely try to play next year, but not sure how the whole team selection process would go," he said. "We have a ton of guys who are in college now and we have a ton on the 18-U team now who are going to (NCAA Division I colleges), so there's guys down there (who might move up)."
McNamara was a mainstay in the Royals' pitching rotation over his final two seasons in the purple and white. He started 14 games and appeared in six others in relief in those two seasons, winning 10 games with two complete games while losing just five times. His six wins in his senior season in 2017 are tied for the second-highest single-season win total on record in program history.
In 34 career appearances, McNamara threw 134 innings and walked just 26 as a Royal. He had a career ERA of 5.44. In his final career appearance, he held Moravian to two runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out one in six innings to earn the victory in an 8-2 win on April 30, 2017.
Friday and Saturday's games will be available live on the Baseball Ireland Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/baseballireland/ – and video archives of the three games played earlier this week are available on the page's timeline.
For more information on the European Baseball Championship Qualifier, including a schedule, stats and more, visit http://www.baseballstats.eu/2018/ashbourne/schedule.php.
UPDATE (July 31, 2018): McNamara and Team Ireland went on to win the gold medal game and advance to next year's B-Pool qualifier. The team wrapped up pool play with an 18-0 win over Slovenia on Friday. In Saturday's gold medal game against Greece, Team Ireland used a seven-run first inning to roll to a 12-2 win. McNamara did not pitch in either game. He finished the week with a 1.80 ERA in five innings over two appearances, earning a save while allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out three. He was one of only two pitchers on Team Ireland to pitch in multiple games during the week.