It was supposed to be a routine surgery.

It was supposed to be a routine surgery.

There Jake Hollis sat, numb. Doctors who had just operated on his shoulder were telling him the news: they had discovered damage more serious than expected. The junior with dreams of playing college baseball was told he almost certainly never would regain his arm strength, and possibly may have thrown his last pitch.

It started two years ago when Hollis, a three-sport athlete at Johnstown High School, suffered a separated shoulder during football season. Injury problems were compounded during a basketball game in late 2007 when Hollis was hit in the shoulder.

This time, he couldn't play through the pain. It got so bad that he couldn't lift his arm. Numerous MRIs revealed a moderate tear in his labrum -- cartilage that assists the shoulder in stability. Hollis would be forced to skip his junior season with the Johnnies

"At times, the surgery was almost heartbreaking," Hollis said. "I was really looking forward to pitching for Johnstown this year. Before the operation, they said I'd probably be throwing in a month. When I woke up, they told me they had to do major reconstructive surgery on my shoulder. To hear someone say I may be done with baseball, it's really scary."

During the December operation, doctors were surprised by the extensive damage to Hollis' shoulder. The labrum had been torn so significantly that it had detached from the shoulder. Surgeons discovered the cartilage halfway down his back -- so far out of place that screws were required to reattach it. The recovery process would be significantly longer, and Hollis was unlikely to pitch like he once did.

Before the injury, Hollis' sophomore season was remarkable. He threw well enough to be the No. 2 pitcher for the Johnnies in 2007, a year in which they had a roster deep with talent on the mound. Johnstown coach Don Carter knows the value of Hollis to his team, likely good enough for college baseball.

"We're excited to get him back. He's a really good pitcher that just had to have surgery," Carter said. "Legion ball is an opportunity for college coaches to see players like Jake. He can definitely play college ball. He's one of those guys who can take his game to the next level."

Hollis hopes he'll be noticed by college recruiters who didn't see him this spring.

"Baseball is where my heart is," he said. "I love basketball and football, but I'd love to play college baseball. I think It's where I'm most talented and it would bring me the brightest future. More than anything it's what I love to do. I love to play the game."

Last Tuesday, Hollis took the mound for his best outing since the surgery. Finally, the strength had returned to his arm, and he felt ready to compete as Post 254 took on Utica Post 92.

"To pitch again, it's almost like a dream come true," he said. "All the frustration is gone and all the hard work and physical therapy has paid off. My parents, friends and teammates have all been there for be and that really put me over the top and got me back on the mound. This summer has been everything I could've asked for."

When asked how close he is to a full recovery, Hollis said he felt "85 percent back." Typically, for a pitcher coming back from such an injury, endurance is a major issue that tends to shorten starts.

Hollis pitched a complete game. In seven innings, he allowed just two runs. For as far as he's come, could anything different be expected?