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Newport Harbor High’s Will O’Neil commits to USC baseball

Newport Harbor High School senior  pitcher Will O'Neil has committed to attend USC.
Newport Harbor High senior pitcher Will O’Neil has committed to attend USC. He also considered Loyola Marymount, Cornell and the University of San Diego.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor High senior baseball player Will O’Neil has a name very similar to the mayor of Newport Beach.

One “L” in the last name is all that separates O’Neil from Mayor Will O’Neill.

“It’s super-funny,” O’Neil said. “I’m in this charity thing called [National League of Young Men], and in a couple of weeks I’m going to have to introduce him to a crowd [at an event]. It’ll be funny.”

O’Neill is running unopposed for reelection this fall. Turns out, O’Neil also is making news this fall.

The left-handed pitcher has verbally committed to continue his baseball career at USC, he said Wednesday.

“I really liked the academics and how close it is to home,” O’Neil said. “My family can come watch me play, and it’s a great conference. I really like the coaches a lot.”

Newport Harbor High  pitcher Will O'Neil at his Newport Beach home.
Newport Harbor High pitcher Will O’Neil at his Newport Beach home.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

O’Neil, the oldest of Tim and Rory O’Neil’s four children, said he was also considering programs like Loyola Marymount, Cornell and the University of San Diego.

He said he has put in the work during the coronavirus pandemic, hitting the weight room four times a week and throwing bullpen sessions once or twice a week as well. He also continued playing club baseball with the Saddleback Cowboys, coached by Mater Dei coach Richard Mercado and Santa Margarita coach Chris Malec.

His fastball velocity has improved to the upper 80s and tops off at 90 miles an hour, he said.

“That’s the hardest I’ve probably worked in baseball,” O’Neil said of his pandemic workouts. “I’ve always had the dream of playing Division I baseball, and I just took full advantage of it. There was nothing really else to do but play baseball, so I just focused on that and it helped me tons.”

O’Neil hopes coach Evan Chalmers’ Sailors are allowed to play this spring, for what would be his third varsity season. At USC, he will link back up with former Newport Harbor teammate Johnny Olmstead, who appeared in six games for the Trojans last season as a freshman infielder and hit a grand slam in his first official college at-bat.

Former Corona del Mar High standout Preston Hartsell also plays for the Trojans as an outfielder.

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