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DeShan, Radnor shouldered burden of tough start

RADNOR >> Somewhere between doctor visits two and three, the frustration of the baseball season started to settle in for Jack DeShan.

The junior, who entered the season as one of Radnor’s top three hurlers, joined the laundry list of injuries in the early going of the Raiders season that contributed to an 0-5 start. By the time DeShan and his doctors had zeroed in on a diagnosis for his ailing shoulder and the limitations it imposed, DeShan figured out a way to deal with the pain while still contributing.

His Radnor teammates underwent a similar collective change, transforming a painful start into a streak of 13 wins in 18 games that has landed the Raiders in the PIAA tournament.

The District One Class AAA champ opens states Monday afternoon, entertaining District 3 fourth-place team Bishop McDevitt (15-9) at Widener at 4.

DeShan’s season could’ve been over when it had barely begun. He was on the mound for loss No. 5 against Penncrest April 13 when he “felt a twinge” in his shoulder fielding a bunt and side-arming a throw to first base.

It took a few days for DeShan to seek out a doctor, where he was diagnosed with a laceration to the anterior interval in his shoulder. It was an injury that his physician said couldn’t get worse and would require surgical correction eventually, but there was a misunderstanding about whether DeShan could keep playing by avoiding pitching or had to end his season altogether.

Since DeShan had played between the injury and the first medical consult, he figured why not keep going if it’s not hampering him much.

“So when I got the verdict back the second time and got the verdict that I needed surgery, I was like, ‘I’ve been playing with this and been able to play my spot and play my role correctly,’” he said last week. “I was confused and taken aback almost.”

That kind of toughness has been a necessity throughout the roster. DeShan and Charlie Connolly, who’s been limited with an arm issue, entered as the rotation anchors around Will Hoysgaard. An injury kept Connor Wilson, a University of Dayton commit, out for the first 11 games.

Andrew Austen’s assumption of a starter’s spot on the mound has been well publicized as a pivotal turning point. But throughout the roster, granular battles — like DeShan boosting the lineup as a designated hitter, then providing stability as a catcher in the District One final win over Upper Moreland — have helped the team ascend to unprecedented heights.

Underpinning the success is a bond that extends behind the high school ranks through Wayne’s legion program, which has paired many of Mark Jordan’s players as teammates for years. DeShan, who relocated from Austin, Tex., as a seventh-grader, is most acutely aware of this. And when the absences piled up and the Raiders could’ve packed it in, their faith never wavered.

“When you have that five-, six-year bond, you become real good friends with these guys and you have resilience that you never even through you had,” he said.

Take Hoysgaard, the only survivor of the top three arms Jordan assembled in preseason. The lanky junior lefty took it on the chin, saddled with three of the season-opening five losses. He was the pitcher of record in a 16-13 loss to Harriton and a 15-3 setback to Haverford.

But since May 1, he’s unbeaten, including 6.1 solid innings in the district quarterfinal win over Chichester and six masterful shutout frames against Upper Moreland.

“I think the 0-5 start, we weren’t really playing together,” Hoysgaard said. “And after that, we just rallied and came together as one, and that’s how we’ve been playing so well together.”

The Raiders are clicking on all cylinders. Austen is 5-0 on the mound and a top-of-the-order table-setter. Wilson is hitting at a .447 clip, and he’s tied for third in hits despite playing just half of Radnor’s games. Matt Schaefer’s 22 RBIs have been central to Radnor’s run production.

That progress is why, in casual conversation, the Raiders will go along with the surprise narrative, the back-from-the-dead, Lazarus of the Main Line spiel.

But press them, and those expectations are always turned externally, reframed to your usual 0-5 team, not this 0-5 team.

Or, they’ll take DeShan’s tack, shrinking away from a term like “surprise,” since he’s not at all shocked to see the potential this group has displayed.

“I always had faith in the team, even though we started off 0-5,” he said. “Playing with these guys, I know how we play. I was never in complete shock and didn’t think we’d lose it all. But just knowing the team, I always thought we had a chance to turn it around.”

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