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Cahill has left his mark at UML

By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By DAVID PEVEAR Sun Staff

LOWELL -- The UMass Lowell record book will lavishly attest to Jon Cahill having played here. He is leaving his name on nearly every page.

Coach Jim Stone doesn't have to check the record book to see what his eyes tell him, that Cahill is one of the five best players he's coached.

"Absolutely," said Stone, thinking back over 35 seasons as a college coach in Lowell. "(Strictly) as a college player, you'd have to say he's up there with a (Mike) LaValliere and others."

The quietly confident, loudly productive Cahill owns seven UMass Lowell career records -- games played (172), at-bats (651), hits (249), doubles (60), singles (172), total bases (353) and runs scored (182).

His .382 career batting average is fourth all-time. The senior shortstop from Peabody hasn't missed a game in four seasons. UMass Lowell is 125-47 during the Cahill Years and appears headed to a fifth straight NCAA Div. 2 Northeast Regional.

"Some guys would kill for the year he's having this year as their entire career," said Stone, whose River Hawks (30-15) play Stonehill College (27-18) tonight (6:00) at LeLacheur Park in the double-elimination Northeast-10 Conference Tournament that continues through Sunday.

Cahill is expected to win Northeast-10 Player of the Year honors. He leads regular-season champ UMass Lowell with a .421 batting average. With 72 hits, he has tied the single-season school record he set as a sophomore when he batted .411.

But baseball isn't all numbers. It's also legends. Already etched into River Hawk lore is the right-handed-hitting Cahill hanging in against a Framingham State sidearming right-hander and homering in his first at-bat after being beaned by a Florida Southern fireballer in Florida in March.

"It was like bells going off in church," recalled Cahill, who wound up in an emergency room. "I was wondering if I was going to lose my hearing."

Two days later, following a rainout, he was circling the bases again, hearing his teammates cheering.

UMass Lowell's previous two shortstops, Marc Deschenes and Ryan Kearney, both wound up in the Cleveland Indians' system as relief pitchers. Cahill dearly hopes to follow his predecessors into professional ball -- but probably as an infielder.

He can pitch, too. Cahill doesn't have Kearney or Deschenes' God-given giddyap, but he's good. In two starts and one relief appearance this season, Cahill struck out 21 and walked two in 16 1/3 innings before his elbow became sore.

"I heard about Deschenes and saw Ryan play for one year," said Cahill. "Ryan was a great player and he was such a competitor. I looked up to him for that."

UMass Lowell pitching coach Mike Fahy, who has scouted for the Braves, has E-mailed teams on Cahill's behalf. A White Sox scout recently watched the 6-foot-0, 185-pound Cahill take extra BP with a wooden bat.

Wood doesn't diminish Cahill's pop. Playing in the wooden-bat New England Collegiate League last summer, Cahill led the Mill City All-Americans with a .331 batting average, third-highest in the league.

"I didn't start out playing that much at all (for Mill City) and was actually thinking about going back to the Intercity League," he said. "Then I got my chance and I took advantage of it."

Cahill's hands are extraordinary. He is a dangerous two-strike hitter and routinely sensational at shortstop. While his feet are hardly a blur, Cahill has nine stolen bases in 10 tries this season. He gets to where he has to go, does what has to be done.

"He's a heady player," said Stone. "Some of the plays he makes in the field are A-Rod-ish."

Cahill's sixth homer of the season was a smash off the left-field scoreboard at LeLacheur Park during a 19-2 romp Monday over Assumption College. When Cahill returned to the dugout after rounding the bases, Stone laughed while overhearing awed freshmen say, "That kid is a stud."

Cahill picked UMass Lowell over Wheaton and Hosfstra after prepping one year at Bridgton (Maine) Academy. At Peabody High he started as a freshman at second base and then for three years at shortstop. He was also a star pitcher.

Former UMass Lowell catcher Joe Luis of Peabody alerted Stone to Cahill, whose high school teammates included catcher Steve Lomasney, now in Double-A with the Red Sox, and pitcher Mike Proto, now a reliever at Clemson University.

In Cahill's senior year, Peabody lost in the state final to Leominster.

"UMass Lowell attracted me the most," said Cahill. "It wasn't that far away. It was just my size. The tradition is unbelievable. I'm glad I came here. There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

Cahill intends to keep playing ball whether or not the pros come calling next month. He is prepared to return to the Lowell Braves. "No reason to stop playing. I wish I could play until I'm 50," said Cahill, a criminal justice major scheduled to graduate in December. "All my friends in high school who have graduated from college say don't bother rushing to the real world."