SALEM -- Townsend native and North Middlesex alum, Ryan Sharp, endured a serious knee dislocation midway through his freshman season with the Salem State baseball team.
The freshman curse has plagued Sharp's knee in the past. He dislocated the same knee as a freshman at North Middlesex.
With the season already half over, the opportunity to redshirt and salvage another year of eligibility was off the table.
Vikings' head coach Mike Ward said Sharp's comeback was remarkable.
"The kid has really battled back," the coach said." Sophomore year he was throwing OK, but he was really hurt. We had to shut him down and he had surgery. He really committed himself in the off-season, and he got in unbelievable shape."
"They had to realign my knee cap," said Sharp. "They had to also realign my shin bone and replace one of the ligaments in my knee."
The six-foot-three, 215-pound senior has emerged from a middle-reliever role into the number three spot in the Vikings' starting rotation.
"He has pitched some big games for us," said Ward. "He was our number three guy but with an injury to our ace, he has really emerged as our number two."
Sharp features a deceptive over-the-top release and a good variety of secondary pitches, including his personal favorite.
"Definitely, my splitter," said Sharp. "It's a pitch that I have been throwing since little-league. I never really have had a good curve ball, so that definitely developed into my go-to pitch."
Sharp's senior season has been a turnaround year that no one could have predicted.
"It's the first time since I've known him that I have seen him healthy," said Ward. "He really committed himself to the season. We thought he would have a good year, but he truly has had a breakthrough year."
Sharp leads the Vikings pitching staff in wins with a 5-0 record and boasts a stingy 2.36 ERA. Sharp paces the Vikings with 49 and two-thirds innings of work.
Sharp's most memorable game of the season up to this point is the win over then ranked number-two Suffolk University back on March, 27. The Vikings returned home after a 3-7 spring training trip in Ft. Myers, Fla., hungry for a win. Sharp satiated his team's craving.
Salem State's freshman starter allowed four runs in the first inning, and Ward made the call to the bullpen for the righty.
Sharp toed the hill and was lights-out over six and two-third innings, scattering seven hits and allowing only one run in relief.
"In that game Suffolk came in 10-1, ranked second in New England," said Ward. "We were coming off the Florida trip at 3-7 with a one-run loss to the defending national-champ Marietta. We won that Suffolk game and went on a run."
Sharp attributes his cool-and-calm demeanor to current North Middlesex head baseball coach Tom Bartelson. Bartelson taught Sharp to keep his composure in stressful situations on the mound.
"Coach Bartelson was a good influence," said Sharp. "He always taught me that you can't get down on yourself; especially when it's not all on you as a pitcher. He really taught me to trust myself. I think that has gone a long way for me."
Salem State went on to capture the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Championship and earned an automatic berth in the Division III National Tournament.
Ward said Sharp is a great role model on and off the field for the Vikings' younger players.
"Ryan is All-Conference Academic," said Ward. "He is regularly on dean's list and is just a steady hand. We have a younger staff with a lot of freshmen. When you have a veteran like him around that has been in some big games and battled adversity, it helps."
Sharp has garnered All-MASCAC Academic honors the last two seasons and knows that there is life after baseball.
"Playing at the Division-three level, I'm not going anywhere with baseball after this," said Sharp. "I am definitely a student first. I take that very seriously. I like good grades and I like succeeding both in the classroom and on the field. It is nice to have a balance."
Sharp will graduate tomorrow from Salem State with a degree in Business and a career full of memories and accomplishments.