This time last year, Alex Duvall’s arm was like a wet piece of paper.

This time last year, Alex Duvall’s arm was like a wet piece of paper.

On March 31, 2012 – the Blue Springs senior has no trouble recalling the date – Duvall took the mound for the Wildcat baseball team’s Suburban Big Six Conference opener against Lee’s Summit. He worked three hitless innings before his velocity suddenly plummeted with his fastball topping out at about 55 miles per hour.

“My catcher came out and talked to me and I said, ‘It ain’t nothing I’m doing,’” said Duvall, a right-hander who gave up just two runs in a 6-2 win over Lee’s Summit on Monday at Blue Springs High School. “I came off the field and told Coach I couldn’t go back out.”

Duvall waited about a week before getting an MRI and the prognosis was a worst-case scenario. His ulnar collateral ligament was torn, the result of years of not taking care of his arm, Duvall said. He required Tommy John surgery, leaving him shelved for at least a year.

With months of rehab ahead, Blue Springs coach Marc Hines figured he’d be lucky to get Duvall back in time for the postseason in 2013, and even then it was unlikely his arm would be conditioned enough to work significant innings.

But the day after surgery – which was performed by the well-known Dr. James Andrews in Florida – Duvall was in the rehab room, a place he’d spend about two hours a day for the next year. Back home, Duvall suffered through painful stretching and strength drills daily at Boost Sports Performance to rebuild his muscles.

“It’s still scary,” Duvall said. “When I found out, I couldn’t even think about what I was going to do. You’re working for college. You work in high school to get to the next level and it’s terrifying when you hear it. But Dr. Andrews and Boost have done a phenomenal job getting me ready to go.”

Hines received regular updates from Boost, but still didn’t expect Duvall back until midseason at the earliest. But right before preseason practice started, Duvall told him he expected to be back by the start of the season.

On April 6, 371 days after his injury, Duvall pitched in the Capitol City Classic against Jefferson City. Hines limited him to 70 pitches, and he took the defeat in an 8-2 loss, but he made it through five innings and the Wildcats only trailed 3-2 when he exited. Fourteen days later, he garnered his first victory in more than a year by tossing six frames in a 7-1 win over Nixa in the River City Festival in Lawrence, Kan.

On Monday, Hines lifted the pitch count, allowing Duvall to go as long as his arm felt comfortable. He still doesn’t have his old fastball back, although he hit 74 on the radar gun after not breaking 70 in his first start. But his command was pinpoint against the Tigers. He threw 100 pitches, walked only one batter and allowed no runs and just three hits the first five innings. He also finished with five strikeouts.

“Location, location, location,” Hines said. “That’s why he’s been so effective. He doesn’t have his fastball back yet, but he’s hitting spots, mixing speeds. He’s just pitching.”

Duvall said he’s had to rely on techniques he learned as a 15-year-old pitching against kids four years older than him for the American Legion Rod’s Sports A’s team. Back then, he didn’t have the arm strength to blow away more mature hitters, so he nibbled the corners, pitched to contact and let his defense take care of him – something he’s also able to do with the Wildcats (11-5), who lead the Big Six with a 6-1 mark.

“I tease (center fielder) Wylson (Lamb) all the time, we’ve got trap doors out in center field. That dude is fast,” Duvall said. “When I’m pitching, I can trust my defense. We’ve got the best middle infield in the state, the best outfield in the state. It’s unbelievable.”

The Blue Springs offense also gave Duvall plenty of support. Lamb scored in the first inning on a wild pitch and the Wildcats plated three more in the second as Brandon Bennefeld scored on an error and Nick Dorman drove in two with a single. The Tigers tagged Duvall for two runs in the sixth, but Kyle Reed blasted a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning to send the Wildcats to their sixth win in seven games.

“We’ve definitely got a huge team camaraderie going on,” said Lamb, who went 2-for-2, reached four times, plated three runs and stole four bases. “Everyone likes each other, everyone’s got each other’s backs. We just know we’ll make the plays for each other.”

Jordan Knutson, a Missouri State signee, took the loss for Lee’s Summit (6-10, 1-4) despite striking out nine and breaking the single-season school record for strikeouts (78) in the second inning.

Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC