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Bitter-sweet Honey

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With radar guns in hand, the professional scouts stood behind home plate at Queens College, eagerly anticipating the first pitch. Some 15-20 from various Major League Baseball clubs had converged for the East Coast Conference doubleheader between the Knights and visiting Adelphi University.

They were there to see a Major League pitching prospect. But it wasn't Brian Honeyman.

No, they were there to watch Bobby Lanagan, Adelphi's junior right-handed ace. And when Lanagan left the game in the seventh inning, the scouts followed. None witnessed Honeyman toss a brilliant complete-game three-hit shutout in the nightcap.

"It's not going to deter me," Honeyman said. "I'm just going to work harder and use it as motivation."

Honeyman deserves the recognition, he deserves a shot. He is 6-0 with three saves, playing a part in all nine of the Knights' conference victories. Coming into Sunday's regular-season finale, Honeyman was fourth in Division II with a 1.20 earned run average.

"To have six wins and three saves (in the East Coast Conference) is unprecedented," Queens third baseman Mike Sporton said. "He just dominates. It's a shame that no one looked at him."

Honeyman did receive a measure of satisfaction Tuesday when he was named the ECC Pitcher of the Year and earned a spot on the All-ECC first team.

Sporton has known Honeyman since the two were freshmen at Archbishop Molloy, teammates who worked their way up to Jack Curran's varsity squad. The same is true for shortstop Ed Hackimer, who transferred to Queens from Iona College.

"I remember turning around in the fall, turning around and seeing the same left side of the infield there was in high school," Honeyman said. "It was an eerie feeling. It brought it right back to Molloy. It's definitely a special thing."

Honeyman was planning on playing at Queens College following his senior year at Molloy, but St. Francis College came along late and the opportunity to play Division I baseball against stiffer competition swayed Honeyman to Brooklyn.

He was a three-year Northeast Conference pitcher for the Terriers, but the college swiftly dropped the program following his junior year and Honeyman decided to come back to Queens and reunite with his high-school teammates.

"I was driving home one day from St. Francis, drove past here and thought, 'You know what? I was supposed to come here and it feels like the right thing to do,'" Honeyman said. "It brings it full circle."

Honeyman was limited last year with a strained elbow, but came back with a vengeance this season.

"The kid Lanagan from Adelphi everyone is looking at can throw the ball, but Honeyman dominated hitters this year," Queens coach Frank Battaglia said. "I think he did a fantastic job. You can't ask for anything more from your ace."

Honeyman, whose fastball has reached 91 mph and can also get batters out with an above average curveball and changeup, stepped onto the mound for the last time in his collegiate career Sunday. But the emotions of the day got to the 6-foot-4, 230-pound righty. He was rocked for six first-inning runs en route to giving up nine runs seven earned in five innings.

Sporton, though, didn't want his friend to get his first loss of the year. He belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first and the Knights rallied from a pair of six-run deficits to tie the score at 10 before falling, 12-10.

"Brian wants it more than anybody and he puts in more hours in the gym than anybody," Sporton said. "To not get him a win sucks. He's bailed us out nine times and to bail him out was kind of what I was hoping for."

His final college game didn't go quite as planned. The same could be said about his entire college career. But Honeyman isn't about to give up his dream of playing professional ball.

"It's going to be a tough road, that's usually how it goes," he said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at dbutler@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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