UCLA freshman pitcher Ethan Flanagan has pulled off quite a comeback story

UCLA pitcher Ethan Flanagan delivers during a game.
UCLA freshman pitcher Ethan Flanagan is back on the mound after not pitching since 2018 because of arm issues.
(Ross Turteltaub / UCLA Athletics)

The return to pitching for freshman left-hander Ethan Flanagan of UCLA makes him one of college baseball’s best comeback stories for 2022.

He last pitched in a high school game his freshman year at Santa Margarita in 2018. In September of that year, he committed to UCLA. Arm trouble didn’t allow him to pitch in 2019, 2020 or 2021. He had Tommy John surgery in 2020.

“It was a very long process, to say the least,” Flanagan said. “I still always had confidence in myself. It was frustrating not to pitch, but I always believed I was good.”


His first official game in four years happened on Feb. 22. He started against Pepperdine and struck out eight in 3 2/3 innings with 71 pitches.

“I was pumped,” he said. “I was nervous going in. I tried to slow everything down and go pitch by pitch and not let the moment get too big.”

Since then, he has become even more comfortable. In 9 2/3 innings, he has 16 strikeouts, two walks and yielded five hits. His fastball is about the same as when he got hurt — approaching 93 mph.

“I know in the back of my mind, once you’re out there, no one cares this guy hasn’t pitched in so long,” he said.

He was able to hit during his high school years with Santa Margarita and won a Southern Section Division 2 championship in 2019. He was grateful that UCLA coach John Savage stuck with him, not withdrawing his scholarship offer despite the arm injury and not knowing how it would affect him.

UCLA’s David Singleton, Cody Riley and Jules Bernard will be honored on senior night, but all three could return because of COVID eligibility rules.

March 3, 2022

For high school athletes dealing with arm issues and being asked to be patient, Flanagan said, “The big thing is staying with it. It’s hard not to pitch your sophomore and junior year and then having TJ surgery and not pitching senior year. Even though I didn’t pitch, I still had confidence I knew I would be good.”

Now Flanagan could be going places with a healthy arm, stronger body from lifting weights and improved mechanics to help relieve stress on the arm. And he also could do lots of traveling if he so desires because he’s a citizen of USA, New Zealand and Switzerland thanks to his parents. His mother is from New Zealand and Switzerland.


“I’m a triple citizen,” he said.

And a comeback pitcher to admire.