It’ll be a start five years in the making for Scott Silverstein. The kind of thing the Virginia pitcher likely imagined as a senior at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.
No. 7 UVa. No. 5 Florida State. 4 p.m. Saturday. Davenport Field.
“This is college baseball,” Silverstein said. “This is why I came to Virginia. This is why I wanted to play in the ACC.”
But to know Silverstein’s heavy involvement in this weekend’s marquee series (game one is at 6 p.m., tonight) is to know the story of how he got here.
The one-time Can’t Miss Kid is 6-0 with a 3.42 ERA. These are the numbers scouts projected for him in 2007 when he was tearing up the prep circuits. When he was regarded as a top-30 recruit — the best in Maryland — and a legitimate pro prospect.
But two shoulder surgeries have delayed the success.
And Silverstein, a fifth-year senior, doesn’t seem to mind.
“I wouldn’t be here without the coaches holding on to me,” he said. “Brian McGuire, our trainer, and Ed [Nordenschild], our strength coach, and all the people behind me. It’s been a crazy ride. I’m happy where I’m at.
“I know I’m not done yet because I know there’s a lot of work left to do.”
It’s what the 6-foot-6, 240-pound left-hander thrives on.
“He’s one of the hardest workers on our team,” said senior second baseman Reed Gragnani, “one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.”
He’s earned that title though the struggles of rehabilitation.
As a junior at St. John’s College High, Silverstein recorded 68 strikeouts in 43 innings. His ERA was 1.81. He gained All-American honors, foreshadowing what could be a quick rise to the pro ranks.
But fate had other plans.
Silverstein felt pain in his left shoulder early in the following season, ending the pitching part of his high school career. The Washington Nationals selected him in the 32nd round of the 2008 draft on June 6. He had arthroscopic surgery on June 11. It revealed a torn labrum, which was repaired.
Silverstein put the Nationals’ plans aside and chose to attend UVa. But the injury followed him to Charlottesville. In October 2009, he went under the knife a second time, another attempt to make right that valuable left shoulder.
Staying optimistic became difficult for the Brookville, Md., native labeled “one of the top pitchers in the country” by Perfect Game in 2007.
“I never said ‘I’m not going to do this’ because this is the only thing I knew,” Silverstein said. “But after the second surgery, I was pretty down in the dumps. I was lucky to have friends like Danny [Hultzen] and Will Roberts and Justin Thomson and Jared King that were always there for me.
“They didn’t let me hold my head down too long and they were always picking me up.”
Silverstein redshirted in 2010, but made 14 appearances in 2011. Following that season, Hultzen (Seattle Mariners) and Roberts (Cleveland Indians) went to the minor leagues.
Silverstein had barely started his college career.
His 2012 included 10 ACC weekend starts. But the record was 2-5 and the ERA was just under 4.50.
It created a chance for huge improvement in 2013.
“This will be my second full year, but I guess, mentally, this is definitely my fifth year,” Silverstein said before the season started. “I’ve seen guys do it before. I watched Danny and [Andrew] Carraway and Will Roberts do it before me and do it well.
“So they definitely laid the groundwork for me to push forward and hopefully have a successful season.”
The Wahoos are 32-6 and 13-5 in the ACC. Silverstein is the leader of a pitching staff highlighted by freshmen (see Brandon Waddell, tonight’s starter) but defined by its 2.76 ERA.
Hope for a successful season? Mission accomplished.
“Scott’s story is a great story because of what he’s been through and what he’s persevered,” said UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “He’s a great example to those young pitchers that things might not always go your way, but you always have another opportunity and it’s about improving and getting better.”
Which, through it all, Silverstein has done.
Saturday, he’ll step onto his biggest stage in a Virginia uniform.
“To have a top 10 matchup is all I could hope for,” he said.
Florida State, leader of the Atlantic Division, is 31-6 and 13-5 in the ACC. UVa sits behind only No. 1 North Carolina (15-2) in the Coastal Division. ... Scott Sitz, FSU’s Sunday starter, is 7-0 with a 1.04 ERA. Luke Weaver, FSU’s Friday starter, is 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA. ... Sunday’s 1 p.m. game is sold out.