A jubilant Kevin Leady reacts after striking out a Toledo player during yesterday's game, when the Rockets fell to the Falcons 4-2. For Leady, it marked the first time in 20 months he played competitive baseball after having Tommy John surgery.
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Kevin Leady waited an excruciatingly long 20 months to take the field again this season for the Bowling Green State University baseball team.
The senior starter and Eastwood graduate underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008 to replace a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm and missed all of last season while rehabbing after the procedure.
With a rebuilt arm and steadfast confidence, Leady allowed just two earned runs over 81/3 innings to lead the Falcons to a three-game sweep of the University of Toledo with a 4-2 victory yesterday in front of an announced crowd of 239 at Scott Park.
"Sitting out a full season and watching, it wasn't fun," Leady said. "I had to get back out there. It took me a little bit to get used to [my arm after the surgery] and adjust to it, but
I think I'm better now than what I was. I have more movement, plus now I'm older and I'm expected to do well."
Leady (5-1) kept the UT batters off balance for much of the afternoon, striking out five while walking two.
At one point, Leady had retired 11 straight hitters before UT first baseman Jim Vahalik singled to right with one out in the eighth inning, only the second hit of the game for the Rockets (21-13, 8-4 Mid-American Conference).
The Rockets' Jim Vahalik pauses at second base after Bowling Green turned an eighth-inning double play.
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It didn't take long for Leady to respond, however, coaxing the next batter, designated hitter Matt Delewski, into an inning-ending double play.
"Kevin Leady was phenomenal, to say the least," BG coach Danny Schmitz said. "It was just total domination. He's probably been our best starter the whole year long."
Leady appeared to be in line for the complete game shutout, but the Rockets rallied in the ninth.
Left fielder Jeff Cola led off the frame with a single up the middle and promptly came around to score on shortstop Jared Hoying's double into right.
After getting second baseman Tim Krofcheck to pop out to left, Leady walked centerfielder Aaron Dudics and was pulled.
"I'm a little nervous every time I come out, just because when I start I think I should finish," Leady said. "I'm kind of mad I didn't, but you have to give them credit for battling all game."
The drama continued to build when catcher Aaron Dudley ripped a liner to left off left-handed specialist Patrick Martin to load the bases with one out.
Schmitz then brought right-hander Ross Gerdeman into the game to face third baseman Joe Corfman. Corfman smacked a 1-1 offering up the middle to score Hoying, but second baseman Logan Meisler made a diving grab and flipped it to shortstop Jon Berti to get Dudley at second.
Right fielder Dan Sherwood followed with a popout to third baseman Derek Spencer to end the game.
"I don't know if my hair can get any grayer, but the kids seem like they're going to test it," Schmitz said with a smile.
The Falcons (13-18-1, 6-6) took an early lead with three runs in the second and another in the fourth off UT starter Lincoln Rassi (4-2).
Designated hitter Matthew Pitzulo led the charge with a one-out, two-run single to right-center field in the second after first baseman Tyler Elkins' RBI single to right.
Catcher Ryan Schlater extended BG's lead in the fourth with a one-out sacrifice fly to right that scored Berti, who reached on Hoying's error to open the frame.
"It was a tough weekend, without a doubt," said UT coach Cory Mee, who saw his team enter Friday atop the MAC West Division standings and leave yesterday in a tie for third in the division. "I don't think we played poorly. I think Bowling Green just played a little bit better."
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