Pitcher finds a home at USM
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 01:10
Four years, three colleges and a battle with Tommy John surgery later, relief pitcher Cameron Giannini for the Southern Miss baseball team has finally found a home on the diamond.
The red-shirt junior, drafted in the 49th round out of high school at Hargrove Military Academy in Chatom, Va., began his college career at Liberty University of the Big South Conference. In his freshman year playing for the Flames, Giannini struck out 40 batters in 45 innings pitched while starting in six games.
However, this would be the one and only season Giannini wore the dark blue and red Liberty uniform.
“I had a good year at Liberty, but the majority of the coaching staff who recruited me while I was in high school left for other schools before I even made it there,” Giannini said. “I felt it would be best for my future in baseball to find a new place to continue playing.”
Gaining interest from a few schools in the area, Giannini emailed coaches at San Jacinto Community College in Houston, Tex., a 19-hour drive from his hometown. Much to his surprise, San Jacinto coaches contacted him the next day, offering him a full scholarship to play baseball for the Gators.
Giannini quickly proved himself worthy, earning the starting closer role after a solid fall season with the Gators. The Southern Miss coaching staff offered him a scholarship after seeing him pitch in the fall, and after only one visit, he signed his intent to be a Golden Eagle.
However, in his final outing before the start of the spring season as a Gator, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, calling for Tommy John surgery. Rehabilitation alone for Tommy John surgery takes a whole year, with some athletes not returning to their previous ability for up to two years, if ever again.
Even with a long road back to the diamond ahead of him, Southern Miss stood firm in its offer to Giannini.
“[Southern Miss pitching coach] Coach Federico really stuck his neck out there for me, wanting me to come even after having Tommy John surgery,” Giannini said.
The rehabilitation process kept Giannini from throwing his first fall with the Golden Eagles.
“It is just frustrating not being able to do something I have been able to do my entire life,” Giannini said. “I came into the spring not knowing if I could even do the things I had been able to do before.”
In his first inning as a Golden Eagle, 18 months after his last official inning of work, he threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen and got the win. Giannini went on to win three games out of the bullpen, giving up only one earned run in 17 and a third innings pitched in conference play last season.
With the whole pitching staff returning and losing only two starters from last season’s team, expectations are high for the Golden Eagles.
“This year is going to be special,” Giannini said. “Our team is close, and we are working hard in the weight room everyday. We know what it takes to win as a team this year.”