The Mountain Pointe baseball team was making a push to the state title game last season. Innings were mounting. Arms were hanging.
And Jordan Kipper was quipping.
"I kept saying I had an inning," he said.
They say there is some truth behind every joke, and that was probably the case. Kipper wasn't allowed to pitch last season by doctor's orders and he was frustrated by it. At that point in the season all teams could use a fresh arm, especially when it belongs to the ace of the staff from the previous season.
"I was joking because there was no way that I could, but part of me was serious, too," Kipper said. "The hardest thing was not being there for my team. If I was cleared I would have done as much as I could."
Of course that was never a possibility, but Kipper plans on returning to ace form again. He got his first start of the year Saturday and threw two perfect innings in 25 efficient pitches in an 8-7 loss to Phoenix Horizon.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander resumed throwing over the summer and comes in 100 percent healthy. The reason for the restriction was a growth spurt and the doctor felt the increased velocity, from low 80s to high 80s, was too much for the elbow to handle.
"It was hard to deal with long before we made state," said Kipper, who features a change-up and curveball along with a heavy, sinking fastball. "There is that feeling of letting people down. I had a good sophomore year and wanted to build on it."
He wasn't idle by any means. He was the designated hitter and batted .339 with 36 runs, 15 extra-base hits (10 2b, 1 3b, 4 HR) and 21 RBIs. When not pitching this season, he will see some time at third, first and as a designated hitter.
"Jordan did what he could for us," Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. "It would have been nice to have him on the mound, but we didn't and now our staff is that much better because we do have him back."
Kipper, who went 2-5 as a sophomore with a 3.95 ERA in close to 45 innings, has committed to Central Arizona Community College in Coolidge, but hopes he can upgrade to a four-year university now that he is back on the mound.
"Central is a great program and I'm happy to get that chance," he said. "I will worry about anything else after the season because right now I am focused on the team. We can do something special."
The Pride, ranked No. 6 nationally by Baseball America in its preseason poll, has plenty of talent, but Kipper said it means nothing once the ball is put in play if they don't play to their potential.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," he said. "If we keep our head on straight there is not a team that can beat us. If we stay focused, don't let the situation get too big for us and keep the game simple the wins will take care of themselves."
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