By STEVE KRAH
Trey Ferketic was with his third college baseball program — all in California — when he tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder.
Three screws were inserted in that right shoulder, the one that helped him make high-speed deliveries for JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Cal State Long Beach and the University California San Diego.
The very first intrasquad scrimmage in late September at UCSD, Ferketic tore the labrum.
There were doubts about his ability to bounce back.
“Coaches and teammates told me I’d never pitch again,” says Ferketic. “I wanted to prove it to myself and anyone else that I could.”
Ferketic pitched in four games and worked 3 2/3 innings for UCSD in 2016, but the pain was just too great and he was shut down.
Thinking he had played his last, Ferketic finished his communications degree at the NCAA Division II school in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego.
There was a sense of closure.
But rehabbing the injury, Ferketic got the idea he could still pitch and he wanted to do it at the Division I level — like he had in 2015 with the “Dirtbags” of Long Beach, where he made six appearances for 9 1/3 innings.
So he appealed to the NCAA to give him back a year of eligibility, claiming a medical hardship.
He was turned down the first time.
On the second try, he provided more information.
A lot more information.
Ferketic turned in more than 60 pages of paperwork.
“It was super extensive,” says Ferketic, who had to submit all his academic records from all his college stops, including summer classes taken elsewhere, and all his medical records. “It was a ton of work.”
This time, he was granted another year. He reached out to some of his connections. He had been recruited by Valparaiso University coming out of junior college ball at Saddleback and that’s where he decided his baseball odyssey would take him next.
“After I got my shoulder surgery, I wanted to play somewhere and I thought it be awesome to come out here and play in front of some new eyes and come to all these new states, new teams and places I’d never heard of,” says Ferketic. “That’s why I chose to come out here.”
Alerted to Ferketic’s availability by cousin and Next College Student Athlete representative Jim Sak, Valparaiso head coach Brian Schmack liked what he saw in bullpen session videos so he brought the Californian to northwest Indiana.
“He knows how to handle his business,” says Schmack of the graduate student. “He shows the younger guys how it’s supposed to be.
“We brought him out here to pitch. He gives us a chance every time.”
Ferketic, who is in the starting rotation for the Crusaders, is not the first graduate transfer for the Crusaders. In fact, he is not the only one on the 2018 squad. There’s catcher-infielder Zack Leone, of Pelham Manor, N.Y.
In 2013, Valpo brought in former Cal State Northridge right-hander Chris DeBoo as a grad transfer.
“He was a mature guy and he knew what it took to be successful,” says Schmack.
Valpo has been very successful in luring California players to play in Indiana.
“We’ve got enough connections out there where we’re getting referrals and maybe a couple of kids from the same high school,” says Schmack. It’s a word-of-mouth type of thing.
“Our thought is to go where the players are. We wanted to find guys who were driven to play baseball and we’ve found a niche out there.
“There’s some kids that say ‘I’m never leaving the state of California.’ There’s other that say ‘I want something new.’ Those guys are really accepting of what we have.”
Ferketic is one of 11 players with California hometowns on the roster. The others are redshirt junior infielder-outfielder Blake Billinger, sophomore outfielder Riley Dent, senior outfielder Giovanni Garbella, sophomore right-hander Michael Hardtke, sophomore right-hander Garrett Hill, senior infielder Chad Jacob, sophomore right-hander Jake Larson, junior left-hander Josh Leaverton, junior right-hander Montana Quigley and junior infielder Sam Shaikin.
Ferketic has enjoyed the transition.
“It’s been awesome out here in the Midwest,” says Ferketic. “What sticks out to me is the seasons. In California, we don’t have seasons at all.
“Pitching in 35 degrees, snow and rain has been crazy. I have more respect now for this part of the country for people who have to grind through that. It’s been cool to experience that.”
Another thing is the different styles of baseball.
“On the West Coast, there’s a lot of ‘small ball’ and playing for one run. It’s pitching- and defense-dominated,” says Ferketic. “Out here, these guys swing for the fences. There’s home runs almost every game.”
Sometimes the wind blowing out favors Valpo and other times it works to the advantage of the opponent.
“You’d like to think it evens out over the course of the year — at least you want to believe that,” says Ferketic.
“They have a lot of trust in their players,” says Ferketic. “It’s a lot easier to play and it takes a lot of pressure off, knowing the coach believes in you and wants you to succeed.”
A focus on the mechanical side has been keeping him directional rather than rotational (with his shoulder flying open).
“I’m a sinker guy and I play off movement,” says Ferketic. “I need to be linear or it goes where I don’t want it to go. I need to have that downhill plane.
“It’s been an awesome experience.”
As a graduate student, Ferketic is working toward a masters degree in sports administration and will likely finish in December.
He chose that route to stay closer to athletics and can see himself running a training facility, scouting program or sporting goods operation.
But he’s still a player right now and he’s soaking that up.
“I would love to play more baseball,” says Ferketic. “I can’t imagine hanging them up. It’s going to be a sad day when I do.
“But I don’t know what my shoulder’s got left. I really don’t. It’s kind of on borrowed time.”
Valpo (18-32) is seeded No. 7 in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Dallas and plays No. 2 seed Dallas Baptist Wednesday, May 23. The event continues through Saturday, May 26. The winner earns an NCAA tournament berth.
Valparaiso University’s Trey Ferketic delivers a pitcher in 2018. He is a graduate transfer from California in his only season with the Crusaders. (Valparaiso University Sports Media Relations Photo)
Trey Ferketic pitched for JSerra Catholic High School, Saddleback College, Cal State Long Beach and the University California San Diego before landing with Valparaiso (Ind.) Universty in 2018. (Valparaiso University Sports Media Relations Photo)
Trey Ferketic wanted to make his comeback from shoulder surgery at the NCAA Division I level and the California native decided to do it in the Midwest with Valparaiso University. (Valparaiso University Sports Media Relations Photo)