NICK DONOVAN is still a junior in high school, so there's no rush in picking a course of study for college.

We're thinking he may opt for psychology, however, seeing as how he seems to be fascinated by the inner workings of human brains . . . Those belonging to batters, at least.

Overall, Donovan, a 5-11, 180-pound junior righthander, was a quick worker Thursday while hurling Cardinal O'Hara High past its archrival, host Monsignor Bonner, 4-3, in eight innings, in a Catholic Red goodie.

And that was with a decent amount of shakeoffs.

"I like to mess with the batters' heads," Donovan said. "I try to guess what they'll be looking for, then go from there.

"If you shake off the catcher, sometimes they're not sure what to think. Sometimes I'll keep shaking off the pitch until the catcher puts the original sign back down."

Whatever works, right?

In only his third mound appearance of the season, and the first to stretch beyond four innings, Donovan toiled through regulation, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out six.

After Sean Rogers, re-entering as the No. 9 hitter, slapped a single into leftfield to score Scott Grinnan and provide the 4-3 lead, Donovan strolled back out to the mound and even fired a pair of warmup pitches.

Oops. A switch already had been planned by Mike Sundo, who handles the pitchers for coach John Grossi. The new moundsman would be shortstop Mike Schneider.

"I didn't mind that Nick went back out there," Sundo said. "It showed he wanted it."

Said Donovan: "I only did that because nobody said anything. I was ready to keep going, but I was also tired. I wasn't upset about leaving. The coaches made the better call to put in our closer."

The new closer, that is.

"I had no idea," Schneider said. "First time I pitched all season."

Three quick outs later, the Lions were loopy and one last snide remark was being yelled by a Bonner kid perched on the hill beyond left-center.

"Don't forget football twice!" As in, Bonner last fall beat O'Hara by scores of 20-13 and 20-14.

As part of six defensive changes, Donovan was playing centerfield in the eighth. (In case you want 'em all for posterity, the four guys to move aside from Donovan/Schneider were Grinnan from left to third, John Kane from second to shortstop, Mike Sciasi from third to second and Rogers from center to left.) And since many of the kids had healthy lungs, he'd heard the funny/biting comments all game.

"I can't remember any specific ones," Donovan said. He paused, then added with a chuckle, "I disagreed with everything."

Donovan, who lives in Aston, is friends with three guys who started for Bonner - pitcher Ronnie Scull, catcher Dan Furman and third baseman Frank Saviski.

"It's Bonner," he said, simply, when asked why the rivalry means so much. "It's always your favorite series. Just great. We lost to them [Tuesday], but at least we got one today. We want to put ourselves into a good spot for the playoffs."

Donovan's Bonner buddies laced two of the hits; double by Saviski in the second, RBI single by Scull in the fourth. Jack Liberatore crunched the other hit, an RBI triple in the third. A wild pitch allowed a sixth-inning run.

"I think I only pitched two times last season, and I wasn't really part of the plans for this one," said Donovan, who also plays center and hits second. "But there was a need. I did OK, and they gave me more chances.

"I felt good about my fastball from the start today. I was hitting the outside corner and that's the spot I like. Get the ball over. That's what you want to do."

Scull went the distance for Bonner. After infield singles by Grinnan, Steve Trainor and Rogers loaded the bases in the fifth, Donovan lined a sacrifice fly to left. Schneider's RBI single drew the Lions within 3-2 in the seventh, then pinch-runner John Banes raced home on a steal/E-2 combo.

"That wasn't designed," Grossi said. "But we tell the kids, 'If you get a great jump, take it.' "

Similarly, if you get a great sign but want to confuse the batter, shake it off.

"It works!" Nick Donovan said.

Contact Ted Silary at silary@phillynews.com.

Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.