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June 19, 2014

Rogers, Astle thrive on college diamonds

Cardinal freshman pitches Cardinals into World Series

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Two former local high school pitchers found immediate success in the 2014 college baseball season.

Former New Albany pitcher Josh Rogers pitched Louisville into the College World Series, while 2014 News and Tribune Player of the Year Trent Astle helped lead Xavier to a Big East championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Despite coming off a Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction during his senior year of high school, Rogers appeared in 14 games and went 3-3 in 11 starts in his first collegiate season. He had a 3.63 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 12 walks.

“The year was up-and-down,” he said, “but I finished on a strong note. It was tough adjusting to pitching in college and not trying to strike everyone out. At the end of the year, I was getting strong.”

It showed. He gave up just two runs in six innings in a 2-1 loss to South Florida in the AAC Tournament on May 23 before his remarkable 4-1 victory over Kentucky to send the Cardinals back to the Super Regional.

The Wildcats had beaten Rogers twice in April. On June 1, however, they had no chance. He gave up just four hits without walking a Kentucky batter.

“I was a little nervous going into the game,” Rogers admitted. “The rain delay was big. I got to relax and calm my nerves a little bit. It was everything you dream of. I worked so hard in the offseason trying to get back to the mound. To be put in a position like that as a freshman, that was a lot of fun.”

The Cardinals advanced to the World Series for the second straight year with a sweep of Kennesaw State. However, Louisville bowed out in two games at Omaha in consecutive seasons, leaving Rogers without a shot to pitch in the World Series.

“I wasn’t really worried that I didn’t get to pitch,” he said, “but I was disappointed we didn’t play our best baseball there. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way.”

Rogers will be joined by two former rivals from Jeffersonville next spring when All-State shortstop Drew Ellis and Red Devil ace Chandler Dale join the Cardinals.

“It’s tough to come in as contribute your freshman year,” Rogers said. “Everyone’s a stud in high school. Hopefully those two guys from Jeff can figure it out quickly.”

Astle had 17 appearances, including 11 starts, in his freshman campaign at Xavier. He went 5-4 with a 4.46 ERA.

“I felt like I grew a lot as a player and a pitcher this year,” Astle said. “I felt like the experience in big games I got as a freshman will help me tremendously in the years to come.”

 Astle threw a complete-game shutout to help the Musketeers defeat Creighton to win the program’s first Big East title. The victory put Xavier into the NCAA Tournament at Nashville, Tenn., where Astle pitched seven strong innings against Oregon. However, the Ducks scored three runs in the 10th against reliever Adam Hall to eliminate Astle and the Musketeers.

“I couldn’t believe how much fun it was playing in the Big East Tournament and playing in the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “It was good to get a taste of what that’s like as a freshman.”

Like Rogers, Astle will be joined by a former rival in 2015 when New Albany grad Brandon Johnson joins the Musketeer staff.

“I’m excited I don’t have to root against him anymore,” Astle said of Johnson. “With the stuff Brandon has, I’m sure he’ll be successful.”

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