Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA pitcher gets relief of his own
Cade Lynch has undergone four surgeries to relieve migraine headaches since transferring to the University of Arkansas in 2010.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas left-hander Cade Lynch said he feels like a big winner this season even though he hasn’t thrown his first pitch.
“I’ve already won just being back out here,” Lynch said after a recent practice. “But I really want to get back to Omaha and win the national championship and contribute and just do whatever I can to help the team.”
Lynch underwent surgery in July and December to relieve compressed nerves in his head and neck that had caused the return of severe migraine headaches, but he is expected to pitch out of the bullpen for the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks in this weekend’s season-opening series against Western Illinois. First pitch for Game 1 of the three-game series is 3 p.m. today at Baum Stadium.
“It’s like a miracle seeing him out there,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I’m thinking, ‘No way,’ and then there he is.”
No. 1 Arkansas vs. Western Illinois
WHEN: Friday (3:05 p.m.), Saturday (12:05 p.m.) and Sunday (1:05 p.m.)
WHERE: Baum Stadium, Fayetteville
After not pitching for several months, Lynch gradually has been working his way back into shape, losing weight and regaining velocity.
“I’m ready to go,” said Lynch, a senior from Jonesboro. “I’ve got some conditioning stuff that I’m kind of behind on, but that’s to be expected. Mentally, I’m as good as I’ve ever been. It’s going to take a couple of weeks to get everything ironed out, but I feel like I can compete and do my job.”
Lynch, 6-6 and close to his playing weight of 250 pounds, was one of the Razorbacks’ best relievers last season when he went 3-1 with 2 saves and a 2.11 earned run average. He had 46 strikeouts in 47 innings and allowed 29 hits with 17 walks.
But instead of playing a key role in the Razorbacks’ postseason run that ended with an appearance at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Lynch was sidelined by migraines after pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a 10-3 victory at Tennessee on May 18 in the final SEC series.
Van Horn said he wondered if Lynch would be able to pitch again, but his fourth surgery seems to finally have ended the migraines.
Lynch underwent surgery for the first time in January 2011, several months after the migraines first started bothering him while he was in Omaha with his American Legion team. He initially managed the pain through medication, but as the migraines became more intense, Lynch began having surgery, all of which have been performed at Houston Hermann Memorial Hospital. He has scars on the back of his neck, his forehead and below both eyes and ears.
“That kid’s gone through a lot,” Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said. “I mean, he’s had serious migraine headaches since his senior year in high school, and he’s battled and battled and had four operations, but he’s never ever complained about anything.All he wants to do is play ball and be a good teammate.
“I’m just happy now that he’s pain-free.”
Lynch had to drop out of school in the fall semester because of the headaches, but Arkansas was granted a waiver by the NCAA that allowed Lynch to be eligible to play this season based on extenuating medical circumstances.
Van Horn talked to Lynch about possibly redshirting to allow him more recovery time, but Lynch wanted to pitch this season.
“I’ve come so far with these guys,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit out this season, just because I think we’ve got something special here.”
Junior second baseman Dominic Ficociello said the Razorbacks were thrilled when they returned to campus from Christmas break and found out Lynch would be able to practice.
“It was like, ‘We’ve got our guy back,’ ” Ficociello said. “We call him The Janitor, because he comes in and cleans up everybody’s messes. He’s probably one of the best relief pitchers in the nation because he’s so sneaky. He throws anywhere from 86 to 90 [mph], but it looks like 96 because he hides the ball so well.”
Van Horn and Jorn said they expect Lynch to pitch as well or better than he did last season.
“He’s thrown some good pitches - not every pitch - but we’re saying, ‘Wow, that’s him,’ ” Van Horn said. “He’s still hard to hit, hard to see and hard to pick up.”
Junior catcher Jake Wise said he has been impressed with how Lynch has pitched in practice.
“Just seeing him back on the mound puts a smile on my face,” Wise said. “He shows up and goes about his business, and he works harder than anybody.”
Lynch said it’s exciting to think about how he’ll feel when he goes to the bullpen to warm up to get into a game this weekend.
“It’s going to be an adrenaline rush for sure,” he said. “It’s going to be very gratifying because I’ve overcome so much.”
SHORT HOPS Arkansas junior Dominic Ficociello will start at second base after playing first base last season. ... Arkansas junior Colby Suggs, a preseason All-America reliever, has been pitching in practice but may be held out of this weekend’s series as a precaution after he was sidelined because of ribcage injury. ... Arkansas senior starting pitcher Randall Fant will miss the series as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. ... Western Illinois has series at Arkansas State on Feb. 23-24 and at UALR on March 1-3 after playing Arkansas.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/15/2013