MARIANNA, Fla. - The Chipola Baseball Team’s postseason journey is about to begin, but that’s nothing compared to what Junior Harding has already overcome.
Two years ago, Chipola’s ace pitcher was a freshman from Maryland.
“Junior was our best pitcher his Freshman year here. He did an outstanding job for us, and he was hitting anywhere from 92 MPH to 97 MPH,” Head Coach Jeff Johnson says of Harding.
He had one of the toughest mentalities you’ll find on the diamond.
"I don't like getting beaten,” Harding says, “If I do I am going to keep on coming after you, keep on coming after you."
Last fall right before his sophomore season, Harding was forced to put down the glove and face a different opponent.
"It just kept on getting worse and worse and worse. Next thing I know I'm in the hospital for two weeks," he recalls.
That's where they found junior was suffering from Ulcerative Colitis – an inflammation of the colon that leaves people in excruciating pain.
"When the pain would hit, it would be one of those pains that nobody should ever feel. You could be in a perfectly good mood, and then the pain would hit you, and it would drop you to your knees."
Harding's love for the game was never going to let him give up.
"There were points where I was like ‘wow I don't know if I could do this anymore,’ but there was this one thought in the back of my mind that was like ‘keep pushing, keep pushing.’"
Slowly but surely he regained confidence.
"I stayed the course and the process and kept working and eventually I saw that my velocity started picking up. I was like ‘alright I guess this thing isn't over quite yet.’"
A year and a half later, that same tough player is back where he belongs – leading the Indians to the top seed in the state tournament.
"He’s been fine,” Coach Johnson says, “He is back to the old Junior, and he has a smile back on his face again. He has been throwing really well, and we are excited to see what he can do for us down in the state tournament."
"I wont stop chasing this dream until it absolutely kills me," Harding says.
Last week, Harding committed to The University of Missouri to continue his career. Before he gets there, he has the state tournament in front of him. It begins on May 5th.
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