Bow’s Vulgamore enjoys bounce-back season with Quinnipiac

  • Evan Vulgamore has enjoyed a bounce-back season with the Quinnipiac baseball team after struggling in first year coming off Tommy John surgery. John Hassett / Quinnipiac University

  • Evan Vulgamore has enjoyed a bounce-back season with the Quinnipiac baseball team after struggling in his first year coming off Tommy John surgery. He received MAAC Player of the Week honors in March. John Hassett / Quinnipiac University

Monitor staff
Sunday, May 20, 2018

Evan Vulgamore’s first two years with the Quinnipiac baseball team have bounced between extremes, from the lows of a down season to the joys of bouncing back.

Vulgamore suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the winter of his senior year at Bow High and underwent Tommy John surgery, effectively erasing his season. When he took the field for Quinnipiac as a freshman, he was two years removed from live action. He may have been a four-time First Team Division II selection in high school, but that felt like a distant memory at college.

“Coming in, they were expecting me to make a big impact my freshman year, and I didn’t,” he said on a recent phone call.

It wasn’t his college coaches who doubted him – the feeling was beginning to creep into Vulgamore himself. But then he sat down with head coach John Delaney last June for his season-concluding meeting.

“I knew he had the ability to be a productive player, I just knew it would be some time,” Delaney said. “Getting him back into baseball shape (from Tommy John) and entering college ball, there were going to be some hiccups.”

One key takeaway from the meeting was that Vulgamore would be Quinnipiac’s everyday third baseman in 2018. He was initially recruited as a catcher before the Tommy John surgery and he did catch a few games his freshman year, but he played mostly at second base. As his arm grew stronger, a move to third seemed possible, and the Bobcats needed just that since they were graduating a third baseman.

“He had a plus arm, plus speed,” Delaney said. “He didn’t care where he played, and those are the type of players that I like. He wants to be in the lineup. We tested him out (at third) last spring, and he showed that he could play there. He has the ability and the athleticism to play there. It’s been a transition that I think he wanted to do also because he felt like he could be useful for the team there.”

The other takeaway from the meeting was that Vulgamore needed to re-focus on the basics: swinging, throwing and smiling.

“In my meeting, my coaches said ‘You’re an athlete, you’re going to be fine.’ They wanted me to play summer ball and just go have fun and get back to the basics of baseball,” Vulgamore said. “Having fun and going up there with confidence, that’s what it really was.”

The simple fix turned out to be the right one. Vulgamore spent last summer playing in the Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League. When he returned to Quinnipiac, he hit .500 in their fall league.

His confidence was coming back. He was swinging for power, enjoying his new position at third base and starting to enjoy himself again.

“Having such a bad year, it’s tough to come back from stuff like that,” Vulgamore said. “But I just forgot about it, worked my butt off in the summer, came back here for fall league and hit .500, and went into the spring and had some success, too.”

Vulgamore opened the season with hits in each of Quinnipiac’s first 12 games in February and batted .300 in the first four weeks.

The Bobcats traveled to Hanover on March 28 to face Dartmouth. With his parents watching in the stands, Vulgamore went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. It set off his most productive week as a college player – eight RBI, three home runs, six extra-base hits, .529 average. The conference took notice, and Vulgamore was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Week.

He had traveled the long road back from his disappointing freshman campaign and any lingering doubt was gone. He did not, however, do it alone. Another local player had followed a similar path and shared the landmarks with Vulgamore.

While he was rehabbing from Tommy John, Vulgamore reached out to one of his good friends, David Drouin, a former star pitcher at Merrimack Valley who went on to play at the University of Hartford. Drouin, who graduated from MV in 2013, underwent Tommy John and missed the 2015 season. He bounced back and racked up a 3-2 record with a 3.06 ERA the next year.

“He’s really been my mental coach and now I don’t see him but I talk to him almost every day,” Vulgamore said. “Through the whole process of failing, he’s really shown me how to deal with it and I’ve learned so much. He’s been huge to my mental confidence.”

Quinnipiac wound up second in the MAAC and got a bye to Thursday’s second round of the conference tournament, which is being played on Staten Island in New York City. Vulgamore finished the regular season hitting .284 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI. After putting up those numbers, his dream of pro baseball, which faded during his freshman year, has been rekindled.

“At the end of last year, I was just trying to be good at the college level and just become a starter,” he said. “And now with the year I’ve had and the power numbers, that dream is still alive.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)