BROOKSVILLE — During an interview as a freshman, Brett Maggard hadn’t faced much hardship in his sporting life.
“I had tennis elbow when I was, like, 12,” the then-Springstead pitcher said. “But I went through rehab and it was fine after that.”
Fast forward three years, and quite a bit has changed. Maggard was a southpaw with loads of potential for the Eagles and the future ace of the staff. When he won a district quarterfinal over Hernando on April 23, 2008, the future seemed to hold big things for the young flamethrower.
After going 3-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 46 innings, an offseason injury brought horrific news. Maggard required ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery, on his pitching elbow and a year of rehabilitation. He didn’t pitch his sophomore season, and last season as a junior he was brought back slowly as Springstead’s ace.
“Last year was my first one off of Tommy John surgery,” Maggard said. “So it was a little more difficult to build up my arm strength at first.”
Springstead coach Frank Vitale had to monitor Maggard’s pitch count, but the gutsy efforts of the team leader landed him a 4-2 record with a 1.87 ERA. He also tossed 42 strikeouts in only 33 2/3 innings.
The Eagles had arguably the most talented team in program history, going 20-6, but many believed they fell short of expectations, losing the district final and region quarterfinal.
With an opportunity to broaden his horizons before college, Maggard moved into Hernando High’s zone and found himself under the tutelage of Leopard coach Tim Sims. For the first time since his freshman year, he is 100 percent healthy.
“Brett slid right into this team like he belonged here,” Sims said. “These kids played together in youth ball years ago, and they welcomed each other into the dugout once the season began.”
Maggard has signed a letter of intent with St. Johns River State College. The Vikings have local connections; former Hernando coach Donnie Whitehead is an assistant. Teammate Ian Townsend also will play there.
“I’ve known Coach Whitehead for years,” Maggard said. “Even when I was at Springstead, he was the type of guy that I could call whenever I needed something.”
For the first time in ages Maggard’s focus is completely on the field. He’s been clocked as high as 89 mph with his fastball, but there’s no doubt he can break 90. Maggard, along with the rest of the Hernando pitching staff, provides Sims with his most talented roster in years.
“There are no issues with egos here,” Maggard said. “Who plays is something that (Sims) is going to have deal with. We just want to go out there, have fun, and win.”