Neumann-Goretti's Joe LaFiora suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm in a Catholic League baseball game early last season and then underwent Tommy John surgery.
"It felt like a rubber band snapping," he recalled. "I threw one more pitch, but I knew I was done after that."
After missing the rest of the year and going through a lengthy rehabilitation process, LaFiora is shining for N-G on the mound and at the plate.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior rang up 14 strikeouts and yielded only one hit in six innings as the Saints easily downed Dock Mennonite, 7-2, Tuesday in a PIAA Class 2A first-round playoff at Methacton.
"My fastball was live, my change-up had good movement, and my curveball was pretty effective," LaFiora said.
The southpaw struck out the side in the second, fourth and fifth innings. He threw 79 pitches, with 58 for strikes.
"He's a real grinder," N-G coach Mike Zolk said. "He put in the time to recover from last year's injury, did everything the right way. That's why he's doing so well."
Next for the Saints (15-5) is a quarterfinal matchup against District 11 titlist Schuylkill Haven (21-4) at 4 p.m. Friday at Muhlenberg High.
LaFiora went to physical therapy three days a week. He also worked on his strength and conditioning with trainer Ron Malandro Jr.
The 18-year-old first returned to action in late April, going three innings in a nonleague game vs. Caravel Academy (Del.).
"I'm getting close to being back to 100 percent," said LaFiora, who is a first baseman or designated hitter when not pitching. "It's a 12-month process."
The Pioneers' only hit against La Fiora was Mason Fisher's home run to left field in the home fourth. He responded by striking out eight of the next nine batters.
LaFiora and third baseman Billy D'Ambrosia produced RBI singles in a two-run first. The two-time defending state champs added two more runs in the second, and D'Ambrosia clinched the victory with a three-run double to left-center in the seventh.
LaFiora and teammate Adian Baur, a senior shortstop and leadoff man, are both headed to Division II Newberry College in South Carolina.
"The 90-acre campus is beautiful, and the team plays in the competitive South Atlantic Conference," said LaFiora, who earned first-team all-Catholic honors as a DH.
N-G eliminated Dock Mennonite (19-5) in the first round of states for the second straight season.
Neumann-Goretti 220 000 3-7 5 0
Dock Mennonite 000 100 1-2 3 2