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Bryce Collins' senior season at Hart has included a mystery illness and a 92-mph fastball

Bryce Collins' senior season at Hart has included a mystery illness and a 92-mph fastball
Hart pitcher Bryce Collins is back healthy after spending all of January recovering at home from mononucleosis. (Eric Sondheimer)

When Bryce Collins is pitching for Arizona next season or perhaps on the mound during a major league game in 2023 or 2024, it's inevitable that some broadcaster will recount the tale from his senior year at Newhall Hart in their best Vin Scully-like narration.

It begins at the end of December when Collins looked into the mirror and saw both of his eyes swollen.

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"They were swelled shut as if I was punched around the face," he said.

"He looked way dehydrated," coach Jim Ozella recalled.

It was a mystery.

"Three different doctors, three different hospitals and they couldn't figure it out," Collins said.

"It was crazy. I'm sitting there, 'What do I have? What do I have to do to get back on the field?'"

After about a week of investigating and taking tests, an answer was found: mononucleosis. He didn't know how he caught the virus but the remedy was rest.

For all of January, he stayed home and ended up losing 25 pounds. With his free time, he watched eight years of episodes from the NBC series, "The Office." Seriously, that's what he did. He also played Xbox games with his Hart teammates.

In early February, he returned to school and baseball. He made a brief appearance in the season opener, only to get the flu and be sidelined from pitching for another week.

This wasn't exactly how he envisioned his senior year, but anyone who watches as many episodes of "The Office" as he did certainly must have a sense of humor.

You could see it on display last week as he tried to drive the infield tractor across the dirt for the first time, barely pushing the pedal as the tractor moved at a snail's pace.

"It was not pretty," Ozella said.

What is encouraging is seeing a healthy Collins on the mound. He has a 92-mph fastball, a nasty curveball, slider and changeup. Against Santa Clarita Golden Valley on April 20, he struck out 16 batters.

"That felt good," he said. "It was a confidence boost that I'm back and I'm back to the person I was before."

At 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, the 17-year-old right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.27 earned run average. He has 65 strikeouts in 44 innings and has helped Hart (15-11, 9-2) take a one-game lead in the Foothill League with two weeks left in the regular season.

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The Indians are playing without standout outfielder Cole Roederer, who recently dislocated a shoulder while playing around with teammates. He might not be back until the playoffs.

Hart is the program that had six players in the major leagues last season, the most from any high school in the country.

Hart plays in Southern Section Division 1, so everyone better be prepared for a fresh and hungry Collins come playoff time in three weeks.

Just don't try to make him laugh with any one-liners from "The Office" reruns.

He knows them all.

Hart pitcher is healthy at 1.27 ERA

Twitter: @latsondheimer

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