Senior pitcher Stevie Powers is coming off one of his most memorable appearances after coming in on relief in the C-USA championship game against Florida Atlantic. Prior to that moment, his season has had several bumps that’s almost made the year not so memorable. The reason being is that the left-handed pitcher has battled with a torn labrum in what will now be his final season to ever play baseball.
In his junior year, Powers became the Saturday guy for the Golden Eagles. In 73 innings pitched last year, he struck out 73 batters and walked just 14 with hitters posting a .282 average against him.
Entering the 2019 season, it looked like Powers was ready to build a breakout senior campaign, but instead, it was the week before opening weekend against Purdue that Powers’ shoulder began to bother him.
“The week before Purdue so leading up to opening day, I made my last start in the spring inter-squads and I felt great everything was fine,” Powers said. “The next day I woke up in a lot of pain in the shoulder, lat area. Kind of just thought it was soreness. We kind of just approached it as that from a training staff’s [perspective] on how we needed to do it.”
From there Powers dealt with some difficult and short outings. After his six-inning day against Purdue, Powers could not go past more than five innings. Against Mississippi St. he threw 1.2 innings, Gonzaga it was 1/3 of an inning, five innings against Holy Cross and 4.1 innings against Louisiana Tech. Powers did not have his first seven-inning performance until mid-April against Charlotte which is also his high of the season. It was not until after the Louisiana Tech series, however, that Powers received an MRI that gave him his full diagnosis.
“[I] kept pitching, kept pitching things got worse,” Powers said. “Obviously my outings were not where I wanted to be lengthwise and stuff. [I] had to exit a lot of games earlier than I wanted to just because I didn’t want to put our team in a position to where we’re going to lose to teams we shouldn’t too. Finally ended up getting an MRI the week after Louisiana Tech, so the first weekend of the conference, I had a torn labrum that I’ve been dealing with. Obviously, we didn’t know that and I took all of this by surprise. [It’s] a slight tear on the top of the labrum [which] is kind of where everything goes with the arm.”
Despite dealing with a torn labrum for most of the season, Powers has still managed to put up respectable numbers. On the year, he has struck out 43 batters, walked 14, dropped hitters’ batting average against him to .262 and posts the best ERA of his career at 3.45.
“That shoulder hasn’t felt good since the start of this fall,” pitching coach Christian Ostrander said. “He’s been dealing with it. Stevie is a really tough kid. He’s pitching with discomfort and pain, but he knows this is his last ride. [He’s] not going to play Pro ball. He really doesn’t care. He’s just going out there and blocking that out and competing.”
Powers’ injury is something that Ostrander relates to since he also dealt with an injury in his senior year of college baseball.
“I remember back when I was in college,” Ostrander said. “My senior year kind of had some of the same stuff. Mine was more elbow. I said I’ll throw until I physically can’t anymore. Stevie has that same mindset. He was ready [and] I knew he would be.”
Powers had the option to take a medical redshirt but instead felt that he had an obligation and loyalty to his team rather than himself.
“At the time, looking back, it crossed my mind talking about the coaches with a medical redshirt and coming back for a fifth year as a walk-on and playing through it and approaching it that way,” Powers said. “But once I sat back and looked that might be a huge, selfish thing and I’m not a selfish guy. I knew this team needed me and I knew that we wouldn’t be here today without all the pieces to the puzzle that we started with this fall. Looking forward and kind of what we had as a goal within our team that it was best for me to finish out the year and do it. Not just for myself but for these guys and put everything I’ve had on the line each day.”
“I think this is it for me,” Powers said. “Baseball has given me a lot of opportunity. It brought me [to Hattiesburg] knowing nobody and now I have a whole other family here and I don’t even know if I really want to leave this place after I graduate. It’s given me a ton opportunity now with this injury and stuff. This is going to be my last couple of weeks with this uniform on.”