The right-handed pitcher’s top velocity was just 74 miles an hour — a very unimpressive mark, even for a high school freshman. “We have a standard of a nine-minute mile. We had to really think about whether we would keep him or not,” Roof said of Bargo. “But, he just had a work ethic.” Bargo got a chance.
And he’s worked extremely hard to make the most of that opportunity. In the past four years, Bargo has developed into one of Madison Central’s top starting pitchers.
The senior recently signed with Lincoln Trail Community College and will be part of the team’s pitching staff this weekend when the Indians take the field for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Championship in Lexington.
Central (30-7) is scheduled to take on Bowling Green (21-11) at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. “There’s a lot of kids who run a 12-minute mile and never come back,” Roof said. “He came out of nowhere. A lot of people quit when the obstacles are that big.” Bargo didn’t quit.
He spent countless hours running, getting in better shape and working on his arm strength. “Coach Roof told me I had to get faster and lose some weight,” Bargo said. “As a sophomore and junior, I stayed after school every day and ran.”
The transformation was stunning. As a junior, Bargo’s top velocity was 88 miles an hour and he posted a time of 7:29 in the mile. The right-hander — who has grown to 6-foot-7 — reached 90 on the radar gun earlier this season.
“That’s really impressive. You don’t usually see that kind of jump (in velocity),” Roof said. “That’s just a testament to how hard he worked.” Bargo was driven to work even harder after his father became ill. Greg Bargo grew up in Barbourville and went on to play both baseball and basketball at Union College.
He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and played in the minor leagues for several seasons. Greg Bargo lost his battle with cancer on Sept. 30, 2016. He was 56. “I just wanted to be like him and do what made him happy,” Bargo said.
“I did it for him.” Greg Bargo spoke with Roof in the days before he passed. He had a request. “At the end, he asked if I could help get Casey to the next level,” Roof said. “We all stepped in and said, ‘Yes. We can.’”
That dream became a reality. Sadly, Greg Bargo was already gone. When the senior signed his national letter of intent on Feb. 7 in the Madison Central auditorium, there was an empty seat to his right on the stage.
“I think about him a lot,” Bargo said of his father. “I just try to think about what he told me. I just keep in my mind that he’s always there.” Bargo got the opportunity to play at the college level because of his solid performances as a junior.
He pitched in victories over Ballard and St. Xavier and started the 44th District Tournament game against Madison Southern. Bargo threw more than 100 innings last season, including summer league games. That workload took a toll on his arm.
“He really never got the rest he needed,” Roof said of Bargo. The Central coaching staff eased Bargo back into action this season. The senior did not appear in a game until April 30 and has pitched only four times. “At the beginning of the year, I had some shoulder problems,” Bargo said. “Just some soreness. I had to go to physical therapy.”
In limited action, Bargo has been very solid again this year. He is 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 11 innings pitched. The senior has allowed 10 hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts. Bargo last pitched on May 23 in the district tournament title game against Model. He started and went 2 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, one unearned run and one walk with four strikeouts.
Central will have to win four games in nine days to win the program’s second state title (1982). Bargo could be called on to play a key role if the Indians put together a championship run. That certainly wouldn’t have seemed very likely just a few years ago. “It’s an unbelievable story,” Roof said of Bargo.