Two years later, the biggest moment in Reed Gragnani’s baseball life is still fuzzy to him.
Did he step to the plate with two outs and two on in the ninth inning with a College World Series trip on the line as Virginia’s second baseman? Or its center fielder? Or was he the DH that day?
“I honestly can’t remember,” he said. “I forget.”
Let the record show that Gragnani was simply a pinch-hitter on June 13, 2011. When he drew a four-pitch walk from UC Irvine ace Matt Summers, it loaded the bases for Chris Taylor to deliver the game-winning two-run single to send the Cavaliers to Omaha for the second time in three years.
It was a thrilling experience for Gragnani. It gave the then-sophomore a few moments to wipe away the pain he was feeling in his lower body.
“That was in the midst of my hip problems,” he said Thursday at Davenport Field. “It had been bothering me the last couple weeks of the season. Then I had to go to the doctor and they did some treatment on me.
“I was definitely not 100 percent, but at that point of the year nobody is.”
But when has Gragnani ever been at full-strength?
Tuesday, after going 3-for-3 with three RBIs in UVa’s 11-2 win over William & Mary, the senior was asked to list his injuries.
He paused for a second, looking to sports information director Andy Fledderjohann for permission, and then voiced his career of unfortunate speed bumps.
“Last year, I tore my left quad,” Gragnani said. “That held me out for the majority of the year. I think I played 19 or 20 games. I crashed into a wall — sophomore year, got hit in the knee. There’s been a bunch of little nicks here and there.”
Such as a hip flexor suffered his freshman year from stealing a base against Boston College that had him sidelined for several weeks. The wall incident happened in the 2011 preseason and it caused an ankle sprain, which led to more hip problems because he began to alter his running style.
“It was just a little snowball effect there,” he said.
Yet, Gragnani still started 41 games that season with a .271 batting average and 31 RBIs. The ultimate utility man then earned his title in 2012 by starting 19 games — 11 in center field, three in left field, two at DH, two at second base, one in right field — before the injury bug bit his 6-foot, 175-pound body again.
“It was against Liberty,” Gragnani said, thinking back to a late February game in Charlottesville. “That’s when it started.”
His left quad muscle was all but finished a month later at N.C. State despite a comeback attempt at Maryland in mid-May.
“My first at-bat, I felt something coming out of the box,” Gragnani said of the Terrapin series. “It just wasn’t right. After that, I shut it down for a little bit and then I tried to get ready for the summer.”
To the Cape Cod League he went. Gragnani played for the Orleans Firebirds and batted .311 in 23 games.
But the quad was still an issue.
“I felt it again and just kept playing,” he said. “I would DH. I didn’t want to come home. There’s this whole process you go through. You sign a contract and then you don’t come home early.
“So I played through it there and then we dealt with it in the fall.”
This was back at UVa, where he was mere months from his senior season. This was going to be the campaign when he would finally get his shot as an everyday middle infielder, his high school position.
But he still had hurdles.
“I was on a strict rehab,” Gragnani said. “I did three or four weeks of just rehabbing and some baseball activity.”
Eventually, he was cleared and participated in the Orange and Blue World Series.
Today, Gragnani will be the starting second baseman in Game 1 of No. 25 Virginia’s weekend series with Toledo (1-1).
He’s batting .438 with a team-best seven hits.
And he’s healthy.
“I just know that, after going through what I went through, every pitch, every at-bat, you never know when it’s going to be your last one,” Gragnani said. “Every play I get, my mindset is, ‘This could be my last one.’
“I really try to keep that focus throughout the whole game and not let anything get in the way and not let my emotions kind of rise too high.”
It’s the characteristic of a battle-tested veteran.
“He’s very mature,” said UVa skipper Brian O’Connor. “He understands the game. He’s a student of the game. He understands what we need to do to be successful.
“When you’ve dealt with the different injuries that he has, through maturity, you start to get the feeling that you never know when this game’s going to end for you, so you got to take advantage of every opportunity that you can.
“It’s a very mature outlook to have at his age.”