The past week has been a noteworthy one for the West York baseball program. It's marked an important step for Kaden Hepler, the pitcher who led the Bulldogs to their first PIAA baseball title a year ago.
Hepler got a chance to see his former teammates for their District 3 tournament game last month against Northeastern and has since returned to Winthrop to rehabilitate from Tommy John surgery. He remembers the tear that required the surgery vividly. He came on in relief during the seventh inning of a game in February. The first batter flew out to right field. The hitter next struck out.
"Two pitches after that I felt a pop in my elbow," he said Wednesday at the South Carolina school. "I knew something wasn’t right. As soon as I threw my next pitch, and it went only 20 feet, I knew something was going on."
Hepler's coach, Tom Riginos, knew a surgeon in from his time at Clemson. Within a month, Hepler had the surgery on his right arm. Last Tuesday he threw the baseball 20 feet with a partner. He expects to throw 45 feet next week.
"Just the fact I can come back stronger has motivated me," he said.
Hepler's goal is to pitch again next spring. Over time the rest of this year, he will throw up to 120 feet and perform long tossing before throwing in the bullpen.
As a senior for West York, he threw a high volume of pitches during the Bulldogs' state title run. He was 14-0 with a 0.93 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings. Around the time of his surgery, Hepler said he was told the injury had nothing to do with previous wear and tear.
"I felt great up to that point," he said. "I felt fantastic. It’s just something that happens."