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June 21, 2005

Bolts' O'Neill not hindered by disability

From: Bridgeton News - Bridgeton,NJ,USA - Jun 21, 2005

Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- As the Tri/Cape took on Jersey Shore in the first round of the inaugural Carpenter Cup Softball Tournament at FDR Park in South Philadelphia, chatter could be heard from the players and fans, coaches yelled out instructions, the roar of the traffic from I-95 and Broad Street was in the background and there was the annoying repetitive jingle from an ice creak truck parked nearby.

Millville High School's Erin O'Neill, who started in right field for Tri-Cape's 7-2 win, heard most of the noise, just not like the rest of the people in attendance.

O'Neill usually wears hearing aids on both ears, although on Monday she wore just one because the other aid is not working correctly. She has only 18-percent of her hearing in her left ear and 39 percent in her right ear.

"I have no clue what people are saying in the dugout," said O'Neill about how her hearing affects her defense.

However, the hearing aids are really the only reason anyone would know O'Neill is hearing impaired. In fact, Tri/Cape head coach Jan Johnston didn't even know O'Neill was deaf until she was asked about it.

O'Neill, who made the Cape-Atlantic League American second team, simply let her new teammates know that she is hearing impaired and that they have to speak louder to her when they are more than a few feet apart.

"We joke about it," said O'Neill. "I say 'you are going to make me more deaf if you scream.' It's really funny. We were in a huddle and I said 'I'm deaf so you have to be really loud.' They said, 'that's OK, we have big mouths, don't worry.' They are very funny."

While the head coach didn't know, assistant coach Pam Pickett, who coaches Buena Regional, is familiar with O'Neill's situation from playing against the Bolts.

"Erin plays the game just like everyone else," said Pickett. "She asked that when we relay information to her, just relay it loudly. It doesn't affect her as player, She does a great job.

"She wears the hearing aids and hears everything. If it's windy we just have to be louder. She knows the game really well anyway and she knows where she has to be and what to do. She does a great job."

On Monday, O'Neill didn't get any chances in the field but helped the offense with a hard hit grounder that the Jersey Shore shortstop couldn't handle, allowing two runs to score. In her first at bat, she hit a line drive that the left fielder caught on the run.

"In the first inning, I was really nervous," said O'Neill. "I thought, just hit the ball and get over it."

O'Neill played the first three innings before being replaced in the lineup, but made a return when Cumberland Regional's Carlye Weir was injured. Weir made her mark early, recording a single to right. She was thrown out at second because of miscommunication.

"It was supposed to be a bunt and run," said Weir. "(Oakcrest's Danielle Hagel) was supposed to bunt but she didn't."

Weir then bunter her way on in her next at bat, but fell hard to the ground as Jersey Shore second baseman crossed her path.

"She stepped in front of me," said Weir. "I hurt my leg, my arm, my head and my neck."

Weir was fine after the game, and despite the injury enjoyed her experience in the first-ever Carpenter Cup.

"Just being out there was the most fun," she said.

Tri-Cape takes on Delaware South at 3 p.m. today. Delaware South defeated Delaware County, 6-1.

The winner will play 9:45 a.m. Friday. The loser plays 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

© 2005 Bridgeton News.