Prep baseball: Recovery timeline keeps Knox from quitting


Six months.

That was the length of recovery Tenino High School’s Kellan Knox was not willing to do. It was from a removal of scar tissue in his elbow, one of many surgeries that the right-hander had from his only major baseball-related injury.

Knox vividly remembers telling his mom that if the timeline was six months, he would quit baseball.

“Five-and-a-half months,” Knox said of how long the doctors said the recovery would be. “I don’t know if it was God or what, but I feel like it was. Pushed myself in physical therapy. Stuck in there for long hours.”

Rooted in his faith, the bond of his family and the brotherhood with his teammates, Knox returned to the mound for the Beavers this spring.

From the opening pitch to whenever the last one is, he’s been the catalyst for one of the best teams in Class 1A.

Tenino is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2013, having won its opening round and quarterfinal games last weekend to set up a regular season rematch against Overlake-Bear Creek on Friday night at Joe Martin Stadium in Bellingham.

“We’re pumped,” Knox said. “We didn’t really show the ole energy after the (quarterfinal) win. We felt great on the car ride back. The energy in school has been great.”

The Beavers beat the Owls in the first game of the season 12-2. Yet the film from that game won’t be viewed by the players and coaches.

To head coach Ryan Schlesser, that game means practically nothing.

“It doesn't really bring us any value,” he said. “It is a team with a lot of confidence and they swing it a lot better than they did (in March).”

It hasn’t been determined if Knox will throw in the semifinals or if he’ll be saved for a potential state title game on Saturday. Still, the road for the Oregon recruit has been far from smooth.

The summer of Knox’s freshman year, it was determined his elbow was separated and broken. Doctors deemed it was an injury that dragged on and continued to get worse.

What followed was a screw being inserted into Knox’s elbow. Then came nerve and bone issues plus infections. He stated he missed over 70 days of school.

“I was in a difficult spot,” Knox said. “I gave up all motivation. My grades slipped, my overall work slipped. So thankful for my parents being there every single day with me because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to get through that place.”

Even though Knox primarily played shortstop last spring, Schlesser felt he was healthy enough to pitch for the postseason.

But the former Beavers player felt it was best to hold his potential ace out.

“We don’t want to push this,” Schlesser said. “Let’s just get healthy and see what happens. I want to make sure he had a great senior year.”

Last summer ended up being the projectile missile for Knox.

He touched 91 miles per hour on the radar gun with his summer team and eventually landed an offer from Oregon. He gave his commitment to the Ducks program and signed his letter of intent in the fall.

“I was living on cloud nine,” Knox said. “College is a different brand of ball. We got new experiences down there.”

In the biggest games of the season, the right-hander has come through for Tenino.

He pitched a shutout in the district semifinals against La Center to secure its state berth, then in the opening round of state, fired a no-hitter versus Lakeside (9 Mile).

“There’s not a game that has been too big for him,” Schlesser said. “When I think of the progression of him, the realization of (starting to think) like a pitcher instead of a thrower. He has developed other pitches.”

Knox is guaranteed two more games with the Beavers, but he wants to end it with a state title. Overlake-Bear Creek is coming off an upset over top-seeded Bellevue Christian in the quarters.

Still, Tenino has been a buzzsaw for a lot of teams in the postseason.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, if we take care of business and do things we know we’re capable of,” Schlesser said. “Everything we’ve done all year has been for this, so let’s have fun.”

Summer plans haven’t been finalized and college will soon be on the horizon for Knox. For now, he’s going to savor the chance to head north with his teammates that have been by his side through thick and thin.

Which has been way longer than six months.

“You got to play every game like it is your last,” Knox said.