SCARSDALE – As a sophomore who was topping out at 87 mph, Spencer Lodes was drawing interest from some of the top college baseball programs in the country.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander was even getting looks from professional scouts, which prompted White Plains coach Marcel Galligani to put his young gun on display during the winter of 2016-17.
“I had a scout come out to take a look at him,” Galligani said. “They put the radar gun on him, and I’m sitting in the cage at the gym, watching him throw. The ball just wasn’t coming out of his hand right. He had nothing. You could tell the scout wasn’t getting excited about what he was seeing.”
Immediately after, Galligani pulled Lodes aside and asked if everything was alright.
“He was like, ‘My shoulder just doesn’t feel right,’ ” Galligani recalled. “At that point, we shut him down. I told him, ‘You have to go get checked out and get an MRI.’ Two weeks later, he came back to me and said, ‘No structural damage.’ ”
What Lodes didn’t tell his coach was that he only went for an X-ray, not an MRI. He could sense that was picking up steam as a prospect and didn’t want to lose out on any opportunities to showcase his ability.
Lodes only made one start during his junior season due to the pain but choose to play during the summer and fall. All the while, he was pitching with two tears in his labrum.
“I kind of knew towards the end of the season, but I knew my junior summer was a big summer, recruiting-wise,” Lodes said. “I decided to play through it. By September, I decided enough was enough and got the MRI. I found out I needed surgery.”
Finally, after months of pain and frustration, Lodes went under the knife for labral surgery on his right shoulder in November.
It’s been a long road back, one that probably cost him a chance at a college scholarship. But on Tuesday with a league championship on the line, he made the first start of his senior season and pitched the Tigers to a 7-1 win over rival Scarsdale.
“It feels amazing,” Lodes said. “It feels just like I used to pitch. It’s all good.”
There were some early jitters, as evidenced by a leadoff walk, but he settled in nicely. Lodes struck out the side in the second inning and allowed just one hit — a solo homer to Cole Kattan in the third.
He was pulled after the third inning to limit his pitch count as he’s eased back into action, finishing with four strikeouts while showing some encouraging signs.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today, but it felt great to be back out there,” Lodes said. “It was how I dreamed it would be. I have to keep working and get better.”
Fellow senior Mike Attonito pitched the final four innings for his fourth win, moving into a tie for the Section 1 lead with eight for the season. He’s filled the void as White Plains’ No. 1 pitcher for the last two seasons, and now the Tigers may have two aces.
“The first thing I did was I spoke to Attonito today,” Galligani said. “I called him down to my office and we spoke. He’s been pitching incredibly well for us, and he’s been our ace. I didn’t want to take him out of his routine. Mikey is by far the biggest team guy that we’ve got, and he said, ‘No, coach. This is going to help us as a team. Start him and I’ll come on in relief to clean it up.’ ”
White Plains finished as the runner-up in Class AA last season, losing to Arlington in extra-innings in the championship final.
With Lodes back on the mound, the Tigers (15-2-1) will enter this year’s tournament as one of the favorites. He’ll still get the chance to play in college as a preferred walk-on at the College of William & Mary, but his tale should serve as a cautionary one for young pitchers.
“To see a kid that talented — by far the most talented with the most upside of any kid I’ve had in my 20 years here in the district — to see that happen to him is heartbreaking,” Galligani said. “But to see the rebound effect, and for him to go to William & Mary, where we know he’s going to make that ballclub, he’s going to open some eyes.”