A year after undergoing surgeries on both hips, and three years removed from his senior season at Newton South High, Scott Lueders has reinvented himself as a baseball player.
A slugging catcher at Newton South, and for Milford’s American Legion Post 59 team, Lueders is working out of the bullpen in his first varsity season at Bentley University.
Lueders pitched competitively for the first time last summer for the Brighton Minutemen in the Yawkey League, and discovered that it would be a challenging transition. Since then, he has shown steady improvement for the Division 2 Falcons.
In 10 relief appearances encompassing 21.2 innings this spring, Lueders allowed 18 hits and posted a 2.49 earned run average. After being touched for two runs in his debut against nationally ranked University of Tampa, Lueders allowed just four earned runs over 20.2 innings, and was 1-1 with a save as of last week.
“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, because I’ve worked hard in rehab and to get in the best shape I can be, and because I always had a strong arm and worked closely with pitchers,’’ the 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior said of his success on the mound. “But I can definitely say I’ve never been happier to be on a baseball field.’’
Bob DeFelice, in his 45th season as Bentley’s coach, has been impressed with the comeback. “His story is a tribute to Scott’s love for baseball,’’ said DeFelice, who immediately took note of the righthander’s physique last fall.
“He has the body of a triathlete, and my first thought was that perhaps he could develop as a hitter and maybe catch again because he had a ways to go as a pitcher,’’ said DeFelice, whose team (26-18, 18-10 Northeast-10) was fighting for first place in the conference’s Northeast Division last week.
“But Scott’s gotten better at pitching, he’s throwing harder, and the best part is he’s finding success on a team that’s competing for a championship.’’
A Dual County League baseball all-star at Newton South, he batted cleanup his senior year, captaining the Lions to an 18-6 record and the Division 1 North semifinals.
“My hips really bothered me when I was in high school. Some days were better than others, some days they were killing me,’’ said Lueders, who attended Drexel University after graduating from high school, suiting up for the club baseball team as a freshman.
He transferred to Bentley in May 2011, with plans to try out for baseball the next season.
But while behind the plate for the Milford Legion team that summer, Lueders reached for an outside pitch and, he said, “I got completely stuck. I didn’t realize how serious things had become. My doctor said the unusual bone structure of both hips, and the wear and tear over the years kept them from moving freely.’’
Lueders, who had the first corrective surgery in January 2012, and the second in March — both at Boston Children’s Hospital — stayed close to the game by assisting his former head coach, Ron Jordan, at Newton South last season.
He also started working out, and resumed his strength and conditioning program.
“But I was advised by my doctor that if I did play baseball again, it should be at a position other than catcher,’’ said Lueders, who talked with Jordan about his next step.
“We agreed that pitching was the logical move because he had a great arm, and I knew he’d devote himself to it,’’ said Jordan, who contacted Bentley assistant coach Bernie Driscoll on his behalf.
“I told Bernie . . . that he was a quality young man who would be a great teammate no matter what his role. I’m really happy for him .’’
Newton South athletic director Scott Perrin said he’s not surprised Lueders is playing college baseball.
“He was never outworked,’’ Perrin said of Leuders, “and for him to come back at that level is phenomenal.’’
His breakthrough performance was a 6⅓-inning relief effort against NE-10 rival Stonehill on March 27. Although the pitcher of record in the 4-3, 15-inning loss, Lueders gave up just two hits and one run, with four strikeouts.
“It was a turning point,’’ said Lueders. “But I must have been a little nervous because as I looked in for the sign for my first pitch, I dropped the baseball and committed a balk.
“It was a little embarrassing, but I came back OK.’’
Lueders quipped, “I’m not breaking any sound barriers with my fastball, which I throw about 90 percent of the time,’’ but he has focused moving his pitches in and out and not leaving them up over the plate.
“That’s crucial in a wood bat league like ours,’’ he said.
“And now when I sit down or squat without pain I feel like I have a whole new body.’’