|Hickey Gave It His All||05/21/2012|
Cresson—Mount Aloysius pitcher Stephen Hickey stood seemingly stoic in the dugout in the final innings of Saturday’s AMCC championship game against La Roche, as his team’s bid to claim their first ever conference title slowly slipped away.
Hickey’s arm was shot and he was physically drained. Although he felt helpless and perhaps even a little guilty for not being able to do more, nothing could be further from the truth, particularly in the minds of his teammates.
“(Hickey) was steller. He gave us all he had and was a big reason we got as far as we did. We all knew his arm was dead and that he played through the pain as long as he could for us,” Mounties infielder Alex Martin said.
Hickey was dominant for the Mounties the previous week. He recorded three saves and got a win in the key playoff game against Pitt-Greensburg. His performance earned him recognition as the AMCC’s Pitcher of the Week, as well as a spot on the national D3baseball.com Team of the Week.
He became the first Mount Aloysius player in the history of the program to earn the prestigious honor, and his efforts allowed the Mounties to advance to the semifinals against Pitt-Bradford.
“We were trying to hold (Hickey) back to get him more rest for a potential start later in the AMCC Championships, but with the game on the line in an elimination contest versus Pitt-Bradford, we had to use him to close the door,” Mount Aloysius coach Kevin Kime said.
The Mounties pulled off the upset, and downed Pitt-Bradford 4-3 in extra innings.
Though elated with the win, Hickey had an exceptionally sore arm and a disconcerting gut feeling when he walked off the mound at the end of the game.
“I knew that it was a good chance that would be the last time I threw,” Hickey said.
“With five appearances in a period of less than two weeks, we knew that Steve may be shut down for the rest of the tournament, just because his problematic elbow would need rest,” Kime said.
Hickey’s “problematic elbow” has been the story of his collegiate career.
He started his career off on a bang, earning two saves and giving up just one hit in the first three games of his freshman year. But his season would be short lived, as he felt a painful “pop” in his pitching arm, while the team was still in the midst of its Florida spring training trip.
That “pop” would turn out to be a torn UCL and resulted in Hickey undergoing the infamous Tommy John surgery, aptly named after the Yankee pitching great whose career was prolonged by the same revolutionary surgery.
Hickey missed his entire second season because of the injury. He made an attempt to comeback his third year, but reaggravated the elbow a few days into practice and was forced to sit out the remainder of that season too.
Last year, Hickey made nine appearances on the mound, recording two saves and a team-best 1.69 earned run average.
While he appeared to be stoic on the outside during the waning moments of the Mounties championship game against La Roche, deep inside, he was anything but.
“I wish I could have pitched in (the La Roche) game and contributed. It was tearing me up a little because I knew it was over,” Hickey said. “But I was also thinking I was just lucky to have an opportunity to come back and play and experience success again. I guess I was just proud of how far we made it.”
Hickey’s collegiate career was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, with the highest certainly coming at the end of the ride. While his elbow injury may be the story of his career, his persistence is arguably an equally defining theme.
“After being sidelined for two whole seasons, he had to feel his way back and get comfortable on the mound again,” Kime said. “This year he came up big for us as a fifth-year senior. His poise and presence was exceptional, and it was evident that we had a mature individual on the mound that knew how to pitch.
“Baseball ability aside, Steve also had a huge impact on many of the younger players on the team. He was a quiet leader all year that lead by example both on and off the field”
Hickey is appreciative of his coach’s kind words, and is quick to reciprocate.
“I’m grateful for the coaches sticking by me. Not too many programs would stick with a player that long and believe in them the way they did,” Hickey said.