By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — I’ve always admired perseverance.
That’s why the story of Rose-Hulman softball pitcher Katie Maggard intrigued me.
Her situation was not life or death, but it must have been incredibly frustrating.
As a freshman in 2005, Maggard suffered a stress fracture in her right foot and appeared in only seven games.
“It healed and it was fine,” she recalled this week as the Engineers prepare to host the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) postseason tournament today and Saturday.
As a sophomore in 2006, Maggard made it through Rose’s annual spring trip — pitching eight games in four days in Florida — but she appeared in only 11/2 more games after returning to Terre Haute because of another stress fracture.
It was in her right foot again, but this time it was a different bone.
That particular Rose-Hulman team was not deep in pitching, so it finished 13-29. Maggard was able to return in time to help the Engineers qualify for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament. She ended up playing in a total of 19 games in 2006.
Fast forward to 2007: About two weeks before her junior season began, the injury bug bit Maggard again. Another stress fracture. This time, left foot.
Few could blame her for saying enough is enough.
She retired from softball and focused on getting her degree in chemical engineering, although she still attended Rose home games and cheered on her former teammates as they compiled a 13-21 record in their first year in the HCAC.
“It was frustrating to the point where she didn’t play last year,” Rose-Hulman softball coach Brian Shearer noted.
“She thought there was something wrong with her feet.”
“My doctor told me it was from playing so hard,” Maggard said, trying to explain her reoccurring foot problems. “There were no bone density issues.”
After last season ended, a hesitant Maggard agreed to meet with Shearer to discuss the possibility of her rejoining the team in 2008.
“After I’d healed [in April 2007], I played catch with some girls just for fun,” Maggard said. “One of my teammates suggested that I come back to the team for this season.”
Maggard agreed to do it, but Shearer made arrangements to lessen her preseason workouts so she could avoid aggravating old injuries or causing new injuries.
Their plan worked. She did miss four games with a bruised tailbone from sliding in practice, but she’s encountered no issues with her feet this season.
Now a senior, Maggard has posted an 8-3 mark with a 2.52 earned-run average. She and sophomore Jordan Goslee (12-2, 1.05 ERA) have helped pitch the Engineers to records of 24-10 overall and 13-3 in the HCAC, good enough to claim the top seed for this weekend’s double-elimination tournament.
“I’m ecstatic,” Maggard admitted. “I’ve had a lot of fun. We play together and we play hard.”
And if the Engineers play well enough to win the HCAC tournament, they can continue playing in the NCAA Division III tournament.
“We have a very good shot at winning the conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament for the first time in Rose-Hulman history,” Maggard said.
Shearer also thinks highly of their group.
“I expected this season to go really well,” he reflected. “I knew with our recruits and who we would have coming back, we would have a good team.
“This [HCAC tournament] isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be a challenge … and the girls know that. The girls wanted to have the tournament here. That was their goal. Now they want to accomplish their next goal, which is making the NCAA tournament.”
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.