By Sam King
Even after having Tommy John surgery because of an injury sustained to his UCL ligament during the fourth inning of a sectional contest against Terre Haute North during his junior year, 2002 Northview graduate Ryan Hayes kept battling back.
Now, still not at 100 percent, he continues his comeback for the Indiana State Sycamores.
Hayes made 20 appearances on the mound this season, including seven starts. An injury to sophomore pitcher Chris Jones allowed Hayes to move into the starting lineup.
"I didn't know if I'd even play this year or if I'd have to redshirt," Hayes said.
When Hayes did play, he often faced bigger schools. During the season, he was sent to the mound against Oklahoma State, Missouri, Wake Forest and baseball powerhouse Wichita State.
Hayes ended the season with a 1-3 record and a 6.61 earned run average. He struck out 24 batters in 47 2/3 innings.
"The game hasn't changed, but the level of competition is different," he said.
Hayes had a standout performance against the Northern Iowa Panthers on April 24. The freshman pitched 8 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out seven batters for his first career win.
"I was in the groove," he said of the game. "I had my good stuff and I hit my spots real well."
Hayes expects to start next season because of his performance as a freshman. The departure of ISU seniors Joe Thatcher, Matt Zaleski and Brian Woods should aid Hayes in getting in the regular starting rotation next season.
"I imagine I'll start next year," he said. "I don't see any reason why I wouldn't."
Sycamores' head coach Bob Warn agrees.
"I would expect he could be one of the starters," Warn said. "We want to bring him along slowly because of his past injury in high school."
Always making the most of a situation, Hayes developed his change up pitch because of his injury. Not having all his velocity back yet, Hayes learned to place his change up effectively.
"My best pitch now is a change up," he said.
With a mixture of NCAA experience, an effective change up and a return to full health, Hayes could become a force to be reckoned with in the Missouri Valley Conference for the next three seasons.