Injuries cost Peter Schaefer three seasons with Johns Hopkins baseball. He’s still chasing his dream.

The hits just kept coming for Johns Hopkins baseball’s Peter Schaefer.

The right-handed pitcher sat out the 2022 and 2023 seasons because of an elbow injury but returned to the Blue Jays this past fall stronger than ever and ready to claim the No. 1 starter role.

Then in December, Schaefer tore the ACL in his right knee, forcing him to miss his third consecutive year. It has become a familiar refrain for the 6-foot, 210-pound senior.

“Unfortunately, it’s not new to me,” he said. “So I kind of have a better mindset going into it. It’s just kind of accepting it right away.”

The loss of Schaefer is a significant blow to a Johns Hopkins program that was one victory away from capturing its first NCAA Division III championship last spring and earned the No. 1 ranking in the preseason poll. Although the team doesn’t seem to have missed a beat on its march to a 22-7 overall record and a 10-1 mark in the Centennial Conference and the No. 10 ranking nationally, coach Bob Babb understood the void created by Schaefer’s absence.

“We still have quality guys. We just lost that guy that could really be a difference-maker,” Babb said. “Not that the other guys can’t be, but Pete has shown the ability to really be good.”

Schaefer was just as disappointed that he couldn’t contribute this season for the Blue Jays.

“In ’22, there was a chance I might be able to make it back at the end of the year. So I was kind of holding onto that hope,” he said. “But this year, I know I’m not playing this year.”

A Knoxville, Tennessee, native, Schaefer went 7-2 with a 0.74 ERA and 117 strikeouts as a senior in high school. Despite that showing, he was only recruited by Johns Hopkins.

As a sophomore in 2021, Schaefer compiled a 5-3 record with 78 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He started in the team’s 11-2 win against Trinity (Texas) in an NCAA regional opener, a 11-7 victory over Northwestern (Minnesota) in the regional final and a 9-3 loss to Washington (St. Louis) in the College World Series opener.

“A lot of people say it’s a blur, and it kind of was,” Schaefer said of making his College World Series debut. “Because you’re so focused on the game, you don’t have time to soak it all in.”

After pitching in the summer and fall, Schaefer began experiencing some discomfort in his right elbow during the winter and underwent an MRI that revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. After skipping the 2022 season and rehabilitating the elbow without surgery, he made his first appearance in a summer league game in Michigan — and fully tore the ligament.

Schaefer underwent what is commonly referred to as Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Sept. 6, 2022. He wore a brace on his arm for six weeks and had to learn how to eat, brush his teeth and carry his belongings with his left hand.

Schaefer missed his second consecutive season and did not participate in the Blue Jays’ run to the College World Series final, where they fell to Lynchburg in three games.

“Obviously, it was awesome, and you love to see everyone’s hard work make it so that they got to where they deserved to be,” he said. “But it was that side where you wish you were a little more part of it. I was a part of everything, but you wish you were more involved and got to throw and got to help them make it to that stage.”

Schaefer was cleared to pitch in October and increased the velocity on his fastball from 87 to 91 mph.

“It was the best my elbow has ever felt over the entirety of my baseball career,” he said. “We had it fixed, and I was stronger than ever and throwing harder than ever. It was just fun to be back out and playing again.”

Then during a team-wide conditioning session on a practice field Dec. 3, Schaefer planted his right foot to turn, and his cleat got stuck in the turf. He said he knew immediately he had torn something and underwent ACL surgery Jan. 22.

Schaefer’s right leg was immobilized for two weeks, and then he had to use crutches. He said he left his apartment 45 minutes early to make 15-minute walks to classes and took circuitous routes to avoid stairs. But even worse was the knowledge that he would have to skip his third year in a row.

“For maybe a couple of days, I was like, ‘Do I really want to do a nine-month recovery process?’” he said. “But the window you have to play college athletics is so slim. I don’t think I as a 30-year-old would forgive myself for saying, ‘That’s enough.’ I still have eligibility left, and I still want to go back out there and play baseball. And I’d still like to chase my dream of playing professional baseball.”

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Refusing to curl into a shell, Schaefer has tried to mentor a pitching staff composed of seven freshmen and nine sophomores. His commitment to join practices after rehabbing his knee has impressed his teammates.

“He still shows up for our team lifts and practices,” graduate student left fielder Matthew Cooper said. “He’s still a big part of our team helping to develop our young pitchers and younger players. So I give him a lot of props for that, and I’m really proud of him for the way he has handled everything.”

Without Schaefer, Johns Hopkins has relied on a heavily right-handed rotation including graduate student Kieren Collins (5-0, 2.03 ERA), sophomore Bearden Awadzi (4-0, 2.87), and graduate student Quinn Rovner (4-1, 3.49) to eat up innings on the mound. And the hope is that junior right-hander Matt Savedoff, who was 10-0 with 70 strikeouts in 69 innings last spring, will rebound from a 1-3 start with a 6.28 ERA.

“We have really nice pitching depth,” Babb predicted in February. “I’m not sure that we have the stud we had last year or that Pete was in 2021, but I think we have more quality hurlers that I can count upon.”

Schaefer said his doctor has told him he can begin throwing in April or May, start running in June, and return to full pitching by Sept. 1. He vowed to meet those benchmarks.

“I’m working every day to make sure that’s the case,” he said. “I’m working to get back stronger.”