By RICH STEVENS
DAILY MAIL ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
There was no rest for the weary group of Hurricane High School athletes who jumped from a Class AAA state basketball tournament runner-up performance on March 22 into baseball practice, three days before the opening game of the 2014 season was scheduled.
It wasn’t a welcome respite for any of the players who came up short against Huntington in the basketball title game. That group includes baseball starters Alex Estep, a senior, and Trey Dawson and J.T. Rogoszewski, both juniors.
For Rogoszewski, it was another step in his maturation process as a bona fide high school two-sport star.
Rogoszewski came off the Charleston Civic Center court in the last game of his junior year as a key element to Hurricane’s late-season run. In three games he averaged 19 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals. That also was nine months after he concluded a standout sophomore season for coach Brian Sutphin’s baseball team.
“It’s hard to explain,” Rogoszewski said of his late-season basketball success. “I honestly have no clue. Something clicked randomly in the season, it just clicked. I started feeling comfortable in my role I guess.”
During a breakout 2013 season in baseball, Rogoszewski (pronounced Rogo-CHEF-skee) stormed to the front of the pack of sophomore baseball stars for Sutphin.
He concluded a first-team All-State season with a .368 batting average, nine doubles and 14 RBI while walking 10 times and striking out only five in 80 plate appearances.
Against Cabell Midland in a 1-0 Region 4 semifinal loss, he gave up one unearned run in eight innings, surrendering five hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. He wasn’t the stopper on the staff at the beginning of the season, but he was at the end.
“I really don’t know how to explain it,” Rogoszewski said. “We had a great pitching staff and a great defense to back me up when I got into trouble.”
As a pitcher, Rogoszewski was 6-2 with a team-leading 0.58 earned run average. He was second on the team in innings pitched (48.1) and had 65 strikeouts with 11 walks.
The turning point of his season came after his worst outing — a 7-6 loss to Parkersburg South on April 13 when Rogoszewski gave up seven runs (two earned), seven hits and four walks.
Sutphin’s choice of words for Rogoszewski’s finish was “mind-boggling.”
In his six appearances after that game — which includes starts against Winfield, Logan and Cabell Midland — Rogoszewski pitched 28.2 innings, giving up 16 hits, two earned runs with 39 strikeouts and four walks. Rogoszewski hasn’t surrendered an earned run since the fourth inning of a 6-1 victory over Logan on April 26, 2013 — a span of 18 innings.
“He didn’t perform well against Parkersburg South, certainly not up to his standards,” Sutphin said. “That was probably my fault because at Myrtle Beach in his previous start he took a ball off the arm and he was a little rusty against South.
“After that game he had an unbelievable run. From the middle of the season on, he just dominated.”
Rogoszewski was part of a pitching staff that had a 1.92 earned run average, but when it came to the most important game of the season, Sutphin went with his 10th grader.
“We had a lot of options,” Sutphin said. “Austin (Hensley), Riley Metz, Connor (Adams) and J.T.”
His dream is to play in the Major Leagues. So far, the 6-foot-3 third baseman and pitcher is receiving serious interest from North Carolina — where former Nitro star Korey Dunbar is playing — Michigan, West Virginia University, Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina.
All this before the first game of his junior season.
“The idea is to be the best you can be,” Sutphin said. “The thing about J.T. is he’s earned everything he’s gotten. As a freshman, he pitched and didn’t get to start as an offensive player and he just got better and better. When hard work meets talent, great things can happen.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail.