Methuen High pitcher Ian Gallagher was ready to bring the heat this spring.
A year after establishing himself as an ace for the Rangers, relying heavily on guts and breaking balls, Gallagher was set to light up radar guns this season.
“Last year my fastball was about 76-78 miles per hour,” said Gallagher. “Last summer, I finally hit 80 MPH. By November, I had my fastball up to 86 MPH, and even hit 92 MPH throwing a practice ball.”
With his new-and-improved fastball added to his already impressive pitch selection, Gallagher was poised for an outstanding spring before the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the season.
“It’s been tough to not play my senior season,” said the American International College (AIC) recruit. “I was devastated when it became official that the season was cancelled. I was really excited. A few of my teammates and I had organized a weekly lift during the winter and were building great team camaraderie. I had high hopes of carrying that onto the field.”
Last spring, his first season at Methuen High after transferring from Bishop Guertin, Gallagher went 2-2 with two saves, a 2.68 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 41 innings.
First-year Methuen head baseball coach Cam Roper said he expected Gallaher to be even more dominant this year.
“I was basing our schedule on when I could get Ian out there against the top Merrimack Valley Conference opponents,” said Roper. “He worked out so hard in the offseason, and he was reaching 86 MPH with his fastball.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Gallaher was pumped to join Methuen High as a junior, after two seasons at Bishop Guertin (Nashua, N.H,)
“I really wanted the opportunity to attend school and play baseball with my friends and Little League teammates in Methuen,” said Gallagher. “Plus, I really didn’t miss the 45 minute commute to Nashua every day.”
Gallagher quickly earned a spot in Methuen’s rotation, and scored his first victory in a 1-0 shutout of Haverhill High. He than added a victory over Tewksbury in the Haverhill Hillie Classic.
But his best performance was allowing just two hits over five innings as the No. 14 Rangers nearly shocked No. 3 Lexington in the Division 1 North first round.
“I was super-focused going into the game and really proud that (then-head coach Bill Blackwell) had the faith in me to name me as the starter for that game,” he said. “I knew it was a one-game season for us, and wanted to give the team its best chance to have a win.”
While his improved fastball has drawn plenty of attention. Gallagher has confidence in a variety of pitches.
“Last spring and summer, I relied heavily on my curveball,” he said. “I mixed in my change-up and two-seam fastball a little. My favorite ‘out’ pitch is definitely my curveball.
“I’ve been working with James Baker at North Shore Performance Training for the past year. He created a strength and conditioning program for me with a focus on getting stronger and improving my endurance on the mound. I also worked with Gardy O’Flynn and National Pitching Association East to improve my form and my velocity, and I’ve grown a couple of inches.”
With the spring done, and summer ball in question, Gallagher is preparing to pitch for Division 2 American International College (Springfield), a member of the Northeast-10.
“AIC’s pitching coach, Garrett Baker, reached out to me after the Bay State Games last year, and invited me to visit the campus and meet the coaches,” said Gallager. “I really like the small school community.
“I got to visit the school a few times in the fall and really liked the coaches, the team camaraderie and spirit. It felt like a great all-around fit for me. I’m really looking forward to playing college baseball. This will be a big step for me, and a welcome challenge, especially after missing this spring.”
With the spring season cancelled, Methuen pitcher Ian Gallagher is keeping his arm sharp with the help of his brother, Dean College catcher Ryan Gallagher.
Ryan, a sophomore and former Bishop Guertin standout, was off to a hot start for Dean this spring, hitting .364 in seven games before the season was cancelled. The brothers have now become workout mates.
“When the lockdown first started, my parents went out and got equipment to set up a home gym and workout area in the basement,” said Ian. “I can continue my workouts and do specific stretches. My brother catches bullpen sessions for me, too.”