Many seniors face changes in their last year of high school. But few seniors have seen as much change as Eli Davis – a standout on the Shawnee Wolves three-time State Championship team.

Eli Davis has been a pitcher for more than half of his life.

Many seniors face changes in their last year of high school. But few seniors have seen as much change as Eli Davis – a standout on the Shawnee Wolves three-time State Championship team.

Eli Davis has been a pitcher for more than half of his life.

“I was eight when I threw my first game,” the Shawnee High School standout said.

And until early this season, he had never experienced any arm trouble. But late in a game against Red Oak, with his team in a tough match-up against a great small school team, Davis reached back for a little extra power, a little too far to the side and released a slider that changed his life.

“I felt some tingling in my elbow and down my arm immediately,” said Davis, who signed to play with Kansas University before his sophomore year in high school. “The next time I tried to pitch, there was lightning bolt pain in my elbow.”

Davis knew something was wrong, but he had seen friends and teammates deal with pain and get treatment and move on. He hoped that would be his fate.

But when he had an MRI done, he got the bad news. He had a 70 percent tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and would require Tommy John surgery to continue to play baseball.

“The doctor said if I could handle the pain I could keep playing,” Davis said. “There were times in practice where I had to take fly balls in center field and just drop them in a bucket. But I wasn’t about to sit out if I didn’t have to.”

Davis was the starting pitcher in the first two Wolves’ state championships, but if they were going to win again this year, he would have to contribute another way.

“It was tough for him,” said Coach Todd Boyer. “He went from one of the main guys in the rotation to not being able to throw. He did everything he could to help the team win.”

And the team did win – every game. The Wolves finished the season 40-0 with their third straight state title. The have won 52 in a row dating back to 2016.

“Every day he said, ‘If you need me in relief, I can go,’” Boyer said. “We didn’t want to do anything to make his injury worse but he was always ready to do it if it would help his team.”

Boyer acknowledged that going undefeated was a major accomplishment for him and his team and doing it after losing one of the best pitchers in the state made it even more difficult to accomplish.

“It goes to the mental toughness of the group,” Boyer said. “They really took on the challenge.”

With Davis stuck in center field, A.J. Barron, Jake Taylor, Cole Payne and Talon Phillips had to increase their time on the mound for Shawnee. Obviously, none of them failed to do what it took to win.

“A.J. Barron was 10-0 for us this year,” Boyer said. “Cole Payne gave us a lot of great innings and Jake Taylor had five or six starts he normally wouldn’t have.”

Taylor said trying to fill Davis’ spot in the rotation was a lot to ask of anyone.

“It was pretty tough,” Taylor said. “My role had been behind the plate usually catching Eli and making sure he had his best stuff and calling the game. To transfer to the mound was different but I just knew it was what had to be done and I tried to go compete as hard as I could and it worked out. But trying to fill the shoes of a dominant pitcher and a guy who is going D1 to pitch wasn't the most calming request but I tried my best.”

Taylor was the winning pitcher in Saturday’s championship game. He pitched a complete game and struck out the last hitter to seal the victory.

One of the biggest worries for Davis outside of how his team would do this year, is how this injury would affect his scholarship offer in Kansas. The Jayhawks signed him after he was named MVP of a Perfect Game Tournament in Georgia after his freshman year of high school. Davis was the winning pitcher in two state title games after that. But KU had signed him before those games and they are sticking with him after his injury.

“I sent the MRI to them and their doctors agreed I needed to have the surgery,” Davis said. “After rehab, I will get to be a medical redshirt.”

Davis has always been a hard worker who had to overcome the label of being undersized. But his hard work will change now and be even more important.

“I have some friends who have been through it,” he said. “I have an idea of how hard it will be and what it takes. I know my work ethic and I know what I can do. I will be back as a pitcher.”

Jayhawk Head Coach Ritch Price said he wanted Davis to have the full Tommy John surgery and because he sees Davis as having a great future even beyond his time in the Big XII.

Davis said one of his favorite games was the Altus game in Regionals when the Bulldogs took the Wolves into extra innings. He was sick with strep throat and didn’t get to play that game. When he heard it was close midway into the game, he came to the ballpark. He said one of his best friends - Talon Phillips, who Davis bonded with during a spring break trip to Florida as a sophomore – was filling in for him in center field and in the leadoff spot in the batting order. Phillips had struggled during the game and Davis talked to him and encouraged him when he got to the game.

“Talon told me he was struggling and wasn’t seeing the ball well at the plate,” Davis said. “I just told him he was fine, to relax and hit it.”

Phillips said his friend came in at a good time and it helped.

“He told me to relax and be myself. He knows I do better when I’m relaxed,” Phillips said. “I was pushing too hard trying to fill his spot. He helped me relax and just hit.”

Phillips did. He tripled and drove in a run that helped the team win in extra innings.

Phillips said Davis’ role on the team was no different after he was hurt than it was when he was pitching.

“This team stayed humble,” Phillips said. “We were just like a family out playing baseball.”

Davis said that mentality on the team helped him as he had to play a different role and contribute in different ways than before.

His surgery is scheduled for May 23. But even with a long road to recovery after his injury, Davis said his final high school season had still been a dream season thanks to the support of his coaches and teammates.