By Russ Reneau
Two years ago, HBU left-handed pitcher Matthew McCollough suffered an injury early in the season and believed he had thrown the last pitch of his career. But in June of 2017, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, and has returned to compete for the Huskies this season.
“We are excited to be able to have Matthew anchor our staff again,” head coach Jared Moon said. “His return gives us a great opportunity to win on the weekends. We don’t need him to come back better, we just hope he can be close to what he was. He’s a great kid, a great leader and great academically. He’s earned the respect of his teammates and they’ll play hard for him.”
“I was relieved when I heard the news, so I’m just blessed to get a second chance; not everyone gets that,” McCollough said. “I loved seeing how the guys finished the year (in 2017), and I want to be a part of it again. I feel like I’m at 100 percent, and I’m ready to get back on the mound and compete.”
McCollough began his comeback in the fall of 2016 when he began his rehab program and started working on his master’s degree. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting from HBU in May 2016. He progressed slowly, but steadily made strides during the Huskies’ workouts this past fall.
“I’m about the same as before as I can be,” McCollough said. “It’s a new elbow, so I still get a little sore, but that’s just part of (pitching). Everything now is more mental, just getting over the block I didn’t have when I was healthy.”
A product of Katy Taylor High School, McCollough missed the entire 2017 season after having Tommy John surgery in July 2016 to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He last competed in 2016, making four starts, and posting a 2-0 record with a 1.09 ERA, 21 strikeouts and two walks. McCollough made his last appearance on March 6, 2016, hurling 7.2 innings in a 4-1 series-clinching victory over Utah.
“It was emotional last year, coming out to the ballpark and knowing I might have a chance to come back,” McCollough said. “A year ago, I thought I had ‘hung them up’ – and I did, mentally – but the second I woke up from surgery, I realized, ‘I’m not done, I’ve got to get back out there and give it another chance.’”
“He has worked hard to get back, and if he’s half as good as he was, that’s pretty good for us,” Moon said. “I think he’ll have a lot of success in our conference again.”
McCollough was the ace of the Huskies’ 2015 Southland Conference Tournament Championship squad, going 8-3 with a 2.87 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 18 walks in 106.2 innings. He started the opener of the conference tournament and threw the first of HBU’s NCAA record four-straight complete games in a conference tournament. He also earned the victory in the championship game when the Huskies won the 2013 Great West Conference Tournament title.
Among HBU’s career leaders, McCollough ranks ninth with a 2.87 ERA, 10th with 148 strikeouts, 11th with 222.1 innings pitched and 15th with 48 appearances.
The baseball team opened its season at home on Feb. 16 against Western Michigan and McCollough couldn’t wait for Opening Day.
“I’m ready,” he said. “The start of the season couldn’t get here soon enough.”