Ty Ross had a typical game May 11 versus Vanderbilt, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and throwing out the only runner who tried to steal on him.
That night when he got home, Ross said he felt a pain in his side.
“I thought it was a stomachache,” the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder from Naples, Fla., recalled. “I didn’t think I was going to wake up and have surgery the next day.”
By the following morning, Ross said the pain was so intense that it hurt him to speak.
So he phoned LSU trainer Jon Michelini, who brought the sophomore catcher to have a CT scan. Within hours, Ross learned that he would need to have his appendix removed.
Ross underwent surgery that same day and missed the final six games of the regular season. LSU lost its first two games without him.
As the Tigers (43-16) prepare to open the Baton Rouge Regional against Louisiana-Monroe on Friday night, they look forward to having a fully healthy Ross back behind the plate.
Ross saw significant action in the Southeastern Conference tournament last week, but was used as a pinch hitter in one of the games and as the designated hitter in another.
He expects to man the catcher position for every game LSU plays this weekend.
“They wanted to make sure I wasn’t rushing back,” Ross said.
Ross wasn’t among the LSU players selected to the
All-Southeastern Conference team Tuesday, but coach Paul Mainieri calls his catcher the most improved player in the league.
At the plate, Ross ranks fourth on the team with a .305 batting average. Behind it, he has thrown out 16 of the 43 runners who have tried to steal on him.
Ross hit only .223 — and threw out just 10 of 59 runners — as a freshman last year.
It was tough enough adjusting to the college game as a 46-game starter. Throw in trying to replace popular veteran Micah Gibbs as the LSU catcher.
The turning point for Ross came when he reported to Cape Cod last summer bent on reshaping his linebacker-like frame.
The rigors of catching nine innings virtually every day combined with what Ross termed a “cleaner diet” helped him return to LSU last fall having dropped 25 pounds.
Watching his catcher practice, Mainieri noticed a more athletic player lighter on his feet.
“I think it’s probably been one of the top three factors in the improvement of our team,” Mainieri said. “He’s become a real leader of our team both offensively and defensively, and I don’t think he would have been that kind of player if he had not become a much more athletic catcher.”
Ross helped LSU get off to a 39-11 start by solidifying himself as one of the SEC’s better backstops.
Now he has put behind the curveball that found him late in the regular season. He said he is ready to catch every inning of every regional game.
“I feel good, my swing feels good — I’m ready mentally and physically,” Ross said.
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