The pressure on last spring had to have been intense.
After a stellar sophomore season, Luppi was recruited to play college baseball at the University of Connecticut. But with high expectations following him into his junior campaign, Luppi contracted an unusual illness that sapped his strength and rendered him ineffective for the entire 2010 baseball season.
Instead of being the team's ace, Luppi became a frustrating question mark in the minds of everyone who followed Tewksbury High baseball. What was wrong? Where did his strength go? Will he ever be the same again?
Fortunately, a month into his senior season, has answered all of those questions in a resoundingly positive way.
Through three starts, Luppi has compiled a 3-0 record with a 1.40 earned run average, and reclaimed his place at the top of the TMHS pitching depth chart.
"It was frustrating," Luppi said of his junior year. "Even as a little kid I had been able to throw the ball hard, then all of a sudden, to not be able to do it anymore, and not know why, it was scary. My college career depended on being able to throw good and all of a sudden I couldn't do it. It was definitely scary."
Luppi took most of the warm weather months off from competitive baseball last year and started throwing again indoors this winter. Gradually, his strength came back, and TMHS coach Ron Drouin was hopeful that his ace would be back to form in time for his senior season.
"I'm a believer that a little adversity builds some character, and he's had some adversity over the last year," Drouin said. "And I think that he's a stronger person for it. His work ethic is second to none and if any kid is gonna overcome this kind of a setback it's Matt Luppi."
It didn't take Luppi long to prove Drouin right. He opened the season with a complete game, 3-2 win over Wilmington, and did not allow a single earned run. His second start was another complete game win, this one over Andover. Last Monday he improved to 3-0, allowing just one run in six innings in a win over Haverhill. Luppi's earned run average dropped to 1.40 after that game.
"Getting off to a good start definitely helps, compared to being so down last year," Luppi said. "So to come out with a 3-0 start and have things go our way, that definitely picks up my confidence. And I'm looking to get better from there."
Regardless of what happens from here on out, Drouin believes Luppi has already proven he's back on top.
"Matt's one of the two or three, number one front line ace guys in the Merrimack Valley," Drouin said. "He's a hard worker, he's a leader and he's respected by his teammates because they know he's put the work in to have success. He's earned everything he's got."
And the future is once again bright for Luppi.
"We've had some good pitchers in the program and Matt's right in line with all those guys," Drouin said. "His size and his projectability made him a Division 1 prospect. He's 6-2, 200 pounds and he's a big strong kid. I can see what UConn saw in him as a sophomore. They're high on Matt. They're really high on his character and his work ethic, as he's shown coming back from this set-back. I think good things are head of him."