Jared Horn was scheduled to start the second game of the 2019 college baseball season for UC, Berkeley in February.
Horn, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior right-hander from Napa, never made it on to the field for Cal that day, unfortunately.
He was not feeling well on the trip to Phoenix and was first taken to an urgent care facility and then later to a hospital in Tempe.
“I started feeling severe abdominal pain,” he said. “They determined that I needed to get my appendix taken out.”
Horn, a Vintage High School graduate, underwent an appendectomy and missed the first month of the season for the Bears.
“He missed a lot of time and just really had to recover and get back,” said Mike Neu, Cal’s head coach, who is also a Vintage graduate. “We know we’ve got to slowly work him back in. Eventually we want to get him back in the rotation – I think that’s the goal. But we want to make sure that he’s 100 percent healthy and that he’s feeling good.”
Horn returned for Cal and made the start in a 13-0 nonconference win over visiting San Jose State on March 12 at Evans Diamond. In limited duty, he threw two shutout innings in his season debut, facing seven batters and allowing two hits and striking out one batter. He threw 19 pitches and got four ground-ball outs.
“I was thrilled to finally get back on the mound for the first time and finally make that first step into fully coming back,” he said a telephone interview last week. “It was a great feeling. I just love competing. Getting back out on to the playing field is just all I really wanted to do.
“Our guys have been playing really good ball lately. It made me itch even more to get back out there. Their plan is to just build me back up, hopefully get back on the mound as much as possible and help my team win.”
Horn’s recovery and rehab process after the surgery included work in the training room to build back his strength and prepare to return to a throwing program.
Horn made his second appearance of the season on Saturday, getting the start at home against USC in a Pac-12 game. He pitched three innings and took the loss as Cal dropped a 1-0 decision. Horn faced 12 batters and allowed one run (earned) on just one hit, walked two, struck out one and got four groundouts and four fly-outs. USC scored the only run of the game in the third inning.
“It was really nice to see him back out there,” said Neu. “It will be nice to have him back in the mix. Just to get him back out there Tuesday was a huge step in the right direction.”
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“For the first outing coming back, there were a lot of positives there. I think his velocity is probably not quite where we hope it can be. And we would like to get his arm strength back up. It’s working to get the consistency level back, which is to be expected when he hasn’t pitched for basically four weeks.”
“I think were some signs of some things in the right direction. It’s just continue to get his arm back into shape.”
This is Horn’s third year in the Cal program. He made 15 starts as a sophomore last year and was 5-5 with a 6.15 earned run average. He had a career-best nine strikeouts in a nonconference win over Cal State Bakersfield.
As a freshman, he was 3-5 with a 4.64 ERA. He had 15 starts and made 16 appearances.
Horn had a good fall session for Cal last year, as he was touching 94 mph and 95 mph, said Neu, who pitched in the major leagues for two years and is in the Vintage High Athletic Hall of Fame.
“His delivery had become more consistent and his velocity in the fall had really ramped up,” said Neu, who took over as Cal’s coach in 2017 after spending two years leading the program at University of the Pacific. “We felt like we really had him in a real good place to finish up the fall. I thought that was such a big positive for him.
“To miss a month, you’re not completely starting over, but you have to build back and do it the right way. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get it all the way back. His ability level is so high. We’re looking to get him back in that starting role and I think we’re just looking for him to be dominant. I think we all know his ability level. He’s extremely talented and competitive. You were able to see firsthand what he was able to do in high school. We want to see that here, see him kind of take that next step and really be dominant. He’s capable of doing it.”
Horn is one of the top pitchers to come out of the Napa Valley. He was 9-2 with a 0.67 ERA and 124 strikeouts in a senior season in 2016 that was highlighted by several honors: Monticello Empire League Player of the Year, honorable mention from Rawlings/Perfect Game All-America, CalHiSports.com All-State Super Elite first team, second team All-America from MaxPreps.com, and American Family Insurance All-USA California All-State Team.
“Being able to play my first two years (at Cal) I think is definitely like a confidence booster,” said Horn, 20, who is majoring in sociology. “It’s made me more mentally prepared. Every time I go out there, I know what I have to do to put my team in a position to win.
“I had a pretty good foundation built before the appendectomy. I was feeling good and feeling strong.
“My outlook is to just keep working hard. We want to continue playing good baseball and hopefully make the postseason and maybe even make a run at the College World Series.”