UK softball continues to play through pain

By Bobby Reagan

The UK softball team has put the word “battle” into full effect during its 2008 campaign. Lately, the Cats have had to fight through pain and injury just to have enough players to field a team.

Sophomore pitcher Amber Matousek, the Cats’ ace on the mound before suffering an undisclosed injury, has been pitching through pain for much of the season. Matousek said that although playing through the pain is difficult, she is just happy that she can still contribute to the team.

“I’ve always wanted to go out and help and be able to play,” Matousek said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve done, but I know you have to be positive and be there for your teammates.”

At times, UK (15-27, 3-16 Southeastern Conference) has struggled to put the required nine players on the field.

Head coach Rachel Lawson said while she never wants any player to get hurt, a team can draw benefits from a shortened roster. With few substitutes available, players are able to get comfortable in their positions, she said.

“When people aren’t doing well or are a little banged up, it’s never easy to not be able to sub them out,” Lawson said. “With that being said though, it’s nice coming to the ballpark and knowing you’re going to be a starter.”

Lawson, who is in her first year with the Cats after serving the previous three as head coach at Western Kentucky, said this is the first time she has seen a line-up so thin. Audrey Meyer, a senior outfielder, said she has become used to injuries plaguing her teams.

“Last year I can’t even count or remember how many girls were injured and missed time,” Meyer said. “However, this year the girls that are hurt are just pushing through the pain and trying not to think about it.”

While Meyer said it is not easy going out and playing in a doubleheader or every game of a series with an injury, it is something that the team knows they have to do. Despite the short bench, Meyer said the Cats are more concerned with picking each other up than about who is hurt.

“We don’t think about when a girl goes down who is going to come in. It’s when she goes down who is going to be there to pick her up,” Meyer said. “It’s that way with everything our team does this year. If there’s an error committed, it’s not whose fault is it, it’s how can we make this situation better.”

With a depleted staff, sophomore pitcher Jennifer Young has had to carry the load for UK on the mound. She has pitched seven of the last 12 games, something that takes an immense toll on a body. Lawson compared the way a player feels after pitching a game to being in a car accident.

But according to Lawson, UK is facing the brunt of the injury bug at the plate.

“It definitely has played a part on our offense, because when people aren’t playing well or a pitcher is beating us, we have to keep going back and facing her,” Lawson said. “But, we are pretty lucky, we’re playing softball every day.”