By Will Conerly
Aaron Stone, a product of Palmyra High School and a senior starting pitcher for the Quincy University baseball team, was one of the area’s top recruits in 2015.
Stone was named the Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year after posting a 7-2 record and 0.69 ERA in his senior season. His next stop was Saint Louis University in the fall of 2015.
In Stone’s freshman season as a Saint Louis University Billiken pitcher, he made just seven relief appearances, throwing 4 ⅔ innings. He finished the season 0-1 with nine earned runs allowed, two strikeouts and 11 walks.
Following the season, Stone made the decision to transfer and set his sights on joining the Quincy University baseball program. Coaches there already knew of Stone.
“(Quincy) recruited me out of high school, and I contacted them after I decided to transfer to see if they would be interested still,” Stone explained.
Stone finalized his transfer to QU in the summer while he was pitching for the Quincy Gems, a team which also plays at QU Stadium just like the QU team.
Stone quickly became familiar with his new teammates during his time with the Gems because QU’s Chandler Purcell and Michael Nielsen were also on the Gems squad.
It seemed to be the perfect fit, a hometown hero returning home. Just a 15-minute drive across the river, Stone could still stay in the comfortable confines of where he grew up.
However, his sophomore season in the brown and gold was reminiscent of the previous spring. Stone only made two starts and pitched 12 innings, and seemed to be on the outside looking in.
This was because the starting rotation consisted of: A senior who would go on to get drafted, a left-hander who was drafted out of high school, and a three time all conference senior. The pitching staff was so impressive that season they helped the Hawks earn its first world series appearance.
The next season Quincy lost a bulk of their innings and starting spots were open to competition.
It seemed like a perfect time again for Stone to finally emerge and become the player everyone thought he would. Stone completed multiple outings, with his fastball sitting at 87-88 MPH in the fall. Iit seemed a lock that the southpaw would start the following spring.
However, another bump in the road occured.
In the last fall game, named the ‘Hawk World Series,’ Stone felt a sharp pain in his elbow.
“I shut it down, tried to throw a week later and it still hurt, so I went to the training room and they shut me down,” Stone said.
Stone had an MRI in January, just one month before the start of the season. The results showed he needed an ulnar nerve transposition in his left elbow because of nerve damage.
“The doctor said I could throw through it or I could wait until the end of the season and I needed it either way, so it was an easy decision to make,” Stone said.
Stone would let the surgery wait and was still a hopeful starter for QU, but only returned to throwing two weeks before the 2018 campaign for the Hawks.
Coach Josh Rabe gave Stone the first weekend off to allow the left hander an extra week to return to throwing.
Worries of inconsistency typically arise for pitchers with elbow damage, but Stone became consistent mainstay in the Hawks’ pitching rotation last season.
“You knew what you were going to get,” Riley Martin, the ace of Hawks pitching staff, said. “He was going to go out and throw five or six innings, keep us in games, and give us a change to win.”
Stone made 13 starts, 10 of which he allowed three earned runs or less and recorded a 6-2 record. Stone ended up with a 3.50 ERA in 69.1 innings pitched and added 42 strikeouts.
All this included Stone pitching the game of his career (to this point) in the NCAA Midwest Regional throwing 105 pitches over 8⅓ innings to lead the Hawks to victory.
The Hawks would eventually be eliminated and two weeks later Stone had the ulnar nerve transposition..
“Three months after surgery I was cleared to throw,” Stone said.
Stone then started throwing as normal this fall and now this spring is a starting pitcher for the Hawks alongside 6th year senior Nick Stroud, and three-year frontline starter Riley Martin.
“I want to better myself on and off the field,” Stone said. “I want to help take this team to a higher level, not just getting to the World Series, but winning the national championship and bringing that first title back to Quincy.”
Stone’s story is one of perseverance and dedication: he seems to be ready for one final ride on the mound with the Hawks.