Back on the horse: Determined Kincaid works to return to mound from elbow injury
Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press
As Brad Kincaid walked off the mound Friday night at Joe Miller Ballpark, his teammates raced to greet him.
One would have thought the senior right-hander had just gotten the final out in a tight championship-clinching game.
Kincaid was simply moping up a 7-0 McNeese State victory, one that had been decided long before he even started warming up in the bullpen. The response from his teammates was not for Kincaid’s work that night but rather the weeks that led up to his mound appearance.
“It was really something to be able to see him out there again,” said Cowboys head coach Justin Hill. “I wasn’t sure he would ever pitch for us again. We were hoping; we saw him working so hard, but you never know.”
There were some hiccups, as Kincaid walked two of the five batters he faced, but there were also some successes. He struck out a pair, getting out of the inning without allowing a run.
“It was something to be back out there,” Kincaid said. “I knew it was going to hurt, but it was worth the pain. It was worth all the work.”
Before the season began, Kincaid was expected to be a major part of the McNeese pitching staff. He missed all of the shortened 2020 year with an elbow injury, but had worked his way back. In 2019 the transfer from Johnson County (Kan.) Community College appeared in 21 games for the Cowboys, making six starts. He finished the year with a 3-1 record and a 4.06 earned run average, striking out 42 batters in 44 innings.
Opponents hit .179 against him and his future looked good.
After last year’s frustrations, Kincaid got off to a strong start this spring, allowing five hits and two unearned runs over eight games and 10 innings. He struck out 20 of the 30 batters he retired.
He was looking like the Cowboys’ closer for the season.
“I really wanted to fill that role,” Kincaid said. “I felt great and was throwing the ball well.”
But during an appearance against Stephen F. Austin on March 26, and after striking out the side, Kincaid felt something wrong in his elbow. As a sinking feeling came over him, he knew right away he had reinjured the stress fracture in his throwing elbow. He feared he had thrown his last pitch.
“I didn’t think I would come back,” he said. “I did think it was over. All the work last year and it seemed gone.”
But Kincaid never gave up.
“It has been such a tough year for me, for the team and the school, everything,” he said. “But what we have learned from the storms and everything we have gone through is you can only control the the controllable. You just have to keep going, keep working.”
So Kincaid did.
It was important for him to doing everything he could to pitch one more time. Making it more special was the fact he might do it on his home field, the one that had been destroyed by Hurricane Laura last August.
“I wanted to go out on my terms,” Kincaid said. “I had to prove it to myself. This was just another hurdle.”
His work helped lift a team that was riding a season-long roller coaster of emotions, wins and losses.
“He did everything he could to put himself in that situation to get back out there and help us,” Hill said. “Everybody saw how hard he was working.
“You have to respect guys who want to go out on the field. I was happy we got to give him that chance.”
On Monday, Kincaid graduated with the rest of the senior spring athletes at McNeese who missed their turn at the big ceremony over the weekend due to games.
The event, which started above Cowboy Stadium, ended during a historical flood. It seemed fitting for a group of of athletes who have weather 16 months of disappointment from storms and a pandemic.
“Coming back for this year I never expected to have to go through all of this,” Kincaid said.
It is likely that the fifth-year hurler has thrown his last pitch for McNeese, with so much on the line from here on out. Though he is ready if called on again, Kincaid said he is fine with how it ended if that is the case.
“I proved I could overcome everything,” he said.
Oh yeah, and one other thing, his earned run average is 0.00.
“If I never pitch again, at least I can say I ended with a zero ERA,” Kincaid said. “I can talk about that forever.”
In truth, his story goes much deeper than one stat.
Brad Kincaid gets the start against SFA at Cowboy Diamond in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Sunday, May 5, 2019.