Butler baseball standout Ollio opts for Tar Heels
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP — Since third grade, Connor Ollio has wanted to be a major league baseball player.
A standout pitcher and infielder for the Golden Tornado, the 6-foot-3 Ollio has verbally committed to continue his academic and baseball career at the
“The coaches there are fantastic and once I went down there, I knew the place was for me,” Ollio said. “It's a first-class (baseball) program, definitely one of the best in the country.”
Mike Fox has been the UNC baseball coach for 18 years, compiling a 763-325-1 record. The Tar Heels have been to the NCAA Tournament 15 times in the past 17 years and to the College World Series six times in the past 10 seasons.
North Carolina was 34-21 overall last year — 13-17 in the Atlantic Coast Conference — with two seniors and 24 freshmen or sophomores on the roster.
“They like me as a third baseman and said I may pitch for them in a year or two as well,” Ollio said.
Ollio has been coached at Butler by two former major league pitchers in Tornado baseball coach Todd Erdos and basketball coach Matt Clement.
“They've influenced me in so many ways. I listen to everything they say and learn from them,” Ollio said.
Ollio has spent the past three summers playing for the Central Florida Gators, an elite travel baseball team. The squad won the U-16 World Series this past summer.
Ollio hit .340 for the Gators and won a handful of games on the mound. Receiving interest from numerous Division I programs, he also considered Duke and Wake Forest before deciding on North Carolina.
He can't formally sign a letter of intent with the Tar Heels until November of his senior year.
“This is pretty commonplace in baseball,” Ollio said of committing early. “Eight or nine of my teammates with the Gatiors committed to schools before I did.”
Erdos described North Carolina as “a tremendous opportunity” for Ollio.
North Carolina has had 79 players selected in the major league draft during Fox's tenure.
“It's a great Division I program and it's the right place for him,” Erdos said. “Connor loves a competitive atmosphere.”
That's one of the reasons he continues to excel at basketball as well. Ollio is in his second year as a starting forward on the hardwood for Butler.
“Connor is a competitor and he loves to challenge himself. That's why he plays with the best,” Clement said.
“Not many kids have the talent to fulfill a dream like he's got. He has the work ethic to go with it. I love seeing special kids get rewarded like this.”
Clement won't rule out Ollio having a shot at baseball's amateur draft at the conclusion of his senior season.
“That could become another option for him. Who knows?,” the coach said. “The kid is only going to get better.”
Ollio recognizes a need to get better.
“My fastball is at 87 or 88 (miles per hour) and I'd like to get it up 92 or so, maybe even 95 or 96 down the road,” Ollio said. “I have to get bigger and stronger yet.
“I want to develop into more of a power hitter, too. I want to play as as freshman at North Carolina and that's going to take a lot of work between now and then.”
Ollio has been putting in that kind of work.
“We had basketball practice on a Saturday morning and Connor and Cade Negley (heading to Santa Clara) were already upstairs throwing,” Clement said. “That's the kind of stuff I used to do.”