The road for a highly-rated high school pitcher to his first career collegiate victory is usually a little easier than the one University of Louisville freshman Josh Rogers was forced to take.Rogers entered his senior season at New Albany (Ind.) High School, where he established new school records for wins and strikeouts, was rated as the No. 2 left-hander in the Midwest. A two-time All-State selection, the 6-foot-3 lefty was on top of his game.
Just as his senior year began, it was over. While on the mound, Rogers suffered a tear to his ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery and a lengthy rehab. It removed his ability to help the Bulldogs into the state playoffs and required a lot of hard work to recover in time for his rookie season at U of L.
"That was one of the lowest points of my life, that's for sure," Rogers told Cardinal Authority. "I missed my whole senior year for that. From day one, Coach Mac and this whole training staff kept me positive and kept me up and it was really good to have their support."
Rogers made an impressive recovery from the injury and quickly became an important member of the Cardinals rotation. After a few solid outings as the midweek starter, Rogers was challenged to learn from the mistakes of the early season losses.
"He's been close and he's had some good innings," said McDonnell. "He's been good the last few outings, one time through the lineup, but it seems the second time through the lineup, or whenever guys got on base, he started to lose command of the strike zone. We challenged Josh, 'make them beat you.'"
Last week, Rogers had his best outing of the season. He tossed a career-long 7 innings, while allowing just 3 hits and striking out 5 to pick up his first career win.
"I like being challenged," Rogers said following the 3-1 win over Western Kentucky."
"You hope he builds on it because the games will get bigger and bigger from here on out," McDonnell said, adding that "the reality is, we need him to give us quality starts."
Rogers has made 8 appearances this season, making 5 starts. He's 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 24 strikeouts. Quite respectable numbers for a freshman, especially one who has overcome Tommy John surgery.
"He put in all the man hours and all the hard work, so for him to bounce back and pitch the way he does is awesome," said Cardinals All-American reliever Nick Burdi. "It's a good thing to see someone who works hard be rewarded for it."Rogers, who was quick to credit the defensive play of his teammates and the work of pitching coach Roger Williams, was all smiles when he left the field after collecting his first victory.
"It's been a long road since surgery last year," he said. "I've worked really hard to get back to where I am. I'm blessed and thankful for it."
Louisville hosts Ohio State on Wednesday evening at Jim Patterson Stadium. Former Cardinal basketball great Peyton Siva will throw out the first pitch. Game time is slated for 6:00 p.m. and admission is free.