Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Port Angeles pitcher John Vaara throws for the Port Angeles Roughriders back in 2022. Vaara has returned to Civic Field as a member of the Lefties after going through 19 months of rehab for a torn UCL.

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Port Angeles pitcher John Vaara throws for the Port Angeles Roughriders back in 2022. Vaara has returned to Civic Field as a member of the Lefties after going through 19 months of rehab for a torn UCL.

PORT ANGELES LEFTIES: John Vaara bringing it back at home

PORT ANGELES — It’s been a long, arduous journey for John Vaara back to Civic Field.

But so far, it’s been a solidly successful return.

Vaara, an alumnus of the Port Angeles Roughriders baseball team and the Wilder Baseball Club, is finally pitching against for the Port Angeles Lefties after having surgery to repair a torn UCL in his elbow back in 2022. He was out for 19 months after the surgery and was not able to pitch for Wilder Senior his last year in Port Angeles. Vaara called it a “significant” surgery on June 22, 2022. He did not pitch again for 21 months.

Now, he’s not only back pitching, the 6-foot-9 Leftie is hitting the mid-90s on his fastball.

The elbow is “feeling a lot better,” he said. “It feels more like it did before I got hurt.”

It was a tough 19 months of rehab, Vaara said, as he battled to rehab his arm. He rehabbed his way back to make the Edmonds Community College roster, making his first appearance as a redshirt freshman for the Tritons on March 10.

“I had been hoping to play at a higher level. My family and friends were there for me the whole time,” he said.

He rehabbed his way into making the Edmonds Community College squad and slowly got in a few games this year. He had five appearances in relief for the Tritons, pitching 3⅓ innings with an ERA of 2.70.

Vaara said it was hard to not be able to play with his buddies his senior year, but is seeing many of them again this summer. He’s spending summer at home during his Lefties tenure. He was also a talented basketball player for the Riders, helping to lead his team to a sixth-place finish at the state 2A tournament, averaging 14.3 points and 13 rebounds a game over his final three games in the state tournament.

Vaara is one of two local products on the team, along with his former Roughrider teammate Kole Acker.

“It’s good for the team, good for the community to have a local kid,” said pitching coach Tanner Knapp. Knapp said Vaara is a strong pitcher who can bring some serious heat.

“He can get up to 94. He just has an impressive arm in general.”

For the Lefties, he’s finally getting in a lot of innings for the first time since 2022. He’s gotten in three games so far this season for the Lefties, and he’s been used against the two toughest teams in the West Coast League. Against a powerful Wenatchee (13-4) team on June 2, he went four innings, gave up just one run, walked none and struck out six. He pitched a hitless 1⅓ inning, again against Wenatchee, on June 6.

And finally against juggernaut and perennial West Coast League champion Corvallis, Vaara went 3⅔ innings on June 14, keeping the Lefties in a game they lost by one run. He gave up two runs and struck out three.

After his first three WCL games, he has a solid ERA of 3.00 and has struck out nine batters in nine innings.

Vaara said the game at the West Coast League level is much faster than what he’s seen before. He’s impressed that the Lefties have been competitive with tough teams like Wenatchee and Corvallis. Port Angeles has had some tough luck this season, losing five games by one or two runs, but with a bit of more timely hitting, the team could easily be near the top of the standings.

“It seems like there’s a few crucial moments in every game. We’ve been right there with them in every game,” Vaara said.

Former Port Angeles Roughrider John Vaara, center, along with fellow western Washington pitcher Colby Scheuber, left and Lefties pitching coach Tanner Knapp at Civic Field before a game against the Ridgefield Raptors on Tuesday. (Pierre LaBossiere/Peninsula Daily News)

Former Port Angeles Roughrider John Vaara, center, along with fellow western Washington pitcher Colby Scheuber, left and Lefties pitching coach Tanner Knapp at Civic Field before a game against the Ridgefield Raptors on Tuesday. (Pierre LaBossiere/Peninsula Daily News)

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