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No second year blues for O'Loughlin
09/10/2017 10:53 PM ET
Jack O'Loughlin is aiming to back up his fantastic rookie season with the Adelaide Bite.
Jack O'Loughlin is aiming to back up his fantastic rookie season with the Adelaide Bite. (Amy Kershaw)

While his classmates are hanging out at school wishing for the final bell, Jack O'Loughlin has been striking out hitters at the Under-18 World Cup in Canada, and pretty soon he'll be back in action for the Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks.

The 17-year-old made a seamless transition into the Bite squad last season and as a 16-year-old guided his team to their first win of the 2016/17 season in a relief appearance.

It was a win which made him the youngest ever winning pitcher in ABL history, and with a contract already signed with the Detroit Tigers it is just the start of an incredible journey.

"It was a very, very high achievement and I felt pleased with myself. I was extremely happy with the turnout of my first season," O'Loughlin said.

"I was nervous when I got out there for the first time. Coming out to relieve my first pitch out there I was very, very, very nervous."

O'Loughlin's season saw him finish with a 3-3 record and a 3.02 ERA, while he led the Bite in innings pitched after eight starts. He was then named Bite Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year after allowing just 14 earned runs in 41 innings.

"I didn't expect it [to be a regular pitcher] at all; I was more expecting just to play here and there, come out of the 'pen," he explained.

"Then I guess it all just kind of happened and I just went with the flow."

Going with the flow is something he does well as a carefree teenager. O'Loughlin's 196cm frame also means he brings natural talent to the mound and with mean velocity he is an imposing pitcher despite his age. Still, every day is a learning curve for the Australian Under-18 star.

"I'm pretty carefree in a way. I'll just go out there and let it go, see how it goes really," O'Loughlin said.

"If I need to work on something I'll work on it and make my adjustments as I go."

Meanwhile, Adelaide Bite Manager Chris Adamson is excited by the prospect of O'Loughlin getting even better this season.

"He's got a little more experience now which is awesome from last year," Adamson said.

"He probably exceeded any expectations that we had last year so now he's well and truly a part of what we're doing here. I look forward to him continuing to take similar strides forward."

During the offseason, O'Loughlin spent time at the MLB Australian Academy Program while he picked up two wins on the mound at the World Cup in Thunder Bay - Australia defeated Nicaragua 11-6 and Cuba 3-0.

"Having all the coaches again that can help with all the fine things and the small things that you're not going to pick up on but they're guys that have experienced all of it and help you out as much as need be," O'Loughlin said.

Australia ultimately finished fifth at the tournament thanks to the win against Cuba, and O'Loughlin claimed a nice 0.69 ERA after pitching 13 innings with 13 hits, four runs (one earned) and a massive 15 strikeouts.

"Seeing Australian baseball do well on the world stage is unreal, but specifically when you got those South Australian guys just killing it over there, and again just going above and beyond in terms of what we're expecting, it's just special to watch," he said.

Expectations are high across various camps, whether it's Australia, Detroit or Adelaide, but O'Loughlin is not the type to worry about expectations.

For now he takes it day by day and the focus is on each outing and the great memories baseball creates. Come November, we will be cheering on every strikeout against the big name stars.

"My highlights on batters were all the professional guys I got to face and the ex-big leaguers that have played," O'Loughlin said.

"That is definitely something I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life."

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.