FAYETTEVILLE (NWAOnline.com) - Cade Lynch has long dreamed of pitching for Arkansas, but his road to Baum Stadium was one less traveled, with a lot of pain along the way.
Lynch was one of the most decorated high school pitchers in state history, finishing his prep career at Valley View High School with a 38-1 record as a starter, including perfect junior and senior campaigns. The 6-foot-6 left-hander closed his career with a win in the Class 4A State Championship Game at Baum Stadium in the spring of 2009.
Arkansas coaches knew about Lynch, but never watched him pitch in high school. When they tried to travel to east Arkansas and watch an outing, Lynch was always the one unable to make it to the ballpark.
"I'm going to go see him pitch one day and I call him that day to tell him I'm coming over," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn recalled. "He says, ‘Coach, I don't feel good. My head is killing me and I'm not going to be able to pitch.' And that was just really weird to me because you've got the head coach of a big program coming over to watch you, and if we like you we're going to give you some scholarship."
Lynch ended up signing with Panola Junior College in Texas, where Arkansas coaches were finally able to watch some outings last spring. They offered him a scholarship after the season and Lynch transferred to the UA over the summer.
Similar to when he was in high school, Lynch complained of headaches during fall practices.
"He comes here and we figure out he has migraines big time," Van Horn said. "He wouldn't even condition. There were times he couldn't even get out of bed because his head hurt so bad."
After seeing specialist in Springfield, Mo., Lynch was referred to another specialist in Houston. There, Lynch had a surgery performed on Jan. 4 to relieve the stress from plates that had crushed together during growth spurts.
The surgery was a success. Despite a scar on the back of his neck that could pass as a baseball seam, Lynch said he has never felt better.
"It's a whole new world," Lynch said. "I smile a lot more and actually feel like I have a life. It's a whole lot better."
Conditioning is still an issue because he was unable to workout for so long. Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said he is interested to see what kind of pitcher Lynch will be when he is in shape.
"He's just kind of a funky left-hander who can throw a sneaky fastball at about 84 to 86 miles per hour," Jorn said. "He's touched 90-91 before so hopefully as the spring goes on and gets in better shape, that'll improve. We look for some big things out of him. He should be a front-line guy for us.
"I've got a lot of respect for him and what he's gone through."
Though he could end up starting before the season ends, Lynch will begin the year out of the bullpen. While starting would be a nice reward, he said just being on campus is reward enough.
"I'm just looking forward to getting the opportunity to pitch again," Lynch said. "It was one of those things where I was never really sure if I was going to get the opportunity to come here. I always wanted to come here. I love it here."