By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
It’s certainly been an unusual softball season for Missouri Southern senior pitcher Kayce Moore.
First she’s told by a doctor that her career was over after she underwent shoulder surgery last winter. But through her determination and rehabilitation, Moore has appeared in seven games this season.
“I’ve been fast pitching since I was 8 years old,” Moore said. “That’s just a part of me. It’s something that I’ve always done, and I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. It was one of those things ... no, this isn’t my time. I’m going to be done whenever I say I’m done.”
And then, she notched her first victory of the season last Friday with two innings of relief in a 9-8 decision over first-place Fort Hays State. That came after she had to work out schedule changes on her nursing clinical schedule.
“It’s pretty awesome the way it worked out,” Moore said. “I’m lucky I even got to be there.”
Moore, from Conway, Ark., will be available for relief work today when the Lions play a doubleheader at 5 p.m. at Pittsburg State. The games — originally scheduled for Wednesday — have been moved up because of a rainy midweek forecast.
The Lions (21-21, 8-12 MIAA) are one game behind the eighth-place Gorillas (21-19, 9-11) in the conference standings.
“We’ve done a lot of great things, but we haven’t been consistent,” Lions coach Bill Gray said. “Our MIAA tournament starts (today). We have eight elimination games before we get to double-elimination (in the tournament). Pitt is in pretty much the same position.
“They are going to be two real big ball games. You have your Southern-Pittsburg rivalry, you have two teams who are in desperate measures, two coaches who respect each other, the Sonic Trophy Series on the line. We have to go out and play with energy, enthusiasm and be able to do it for 14 innings.”
Moore’s senior-season hopes took a big hit last fall.
“You start your senior season thinking this is it, this is the year,” she said. “Well, I was told in November that I had torn my labrum and my rotator cuff. So I had to have surgery. We were going to try to go without surgery, but I’m a nursing student and to be a nurse, you have to use your shoulder. ... Nobody wants to hire a nurse who’s going to be out for months with a torn shoulder.
“I had the surgery, went back to see my doctor in January before coming up here, and he told me I was done. He told me I was never going to play softball again. So I went home, cried for a long time, called Coach Gray. I ended up telling Coach Gray that’s not true. I’m going to work hard and I’m still going to play.
“So I had to do a lot of physical therapy. I’m done with physical therapy now. I just do it on my own. I can pitch all I want to. I can’t throw overhand very well, but I’m just really grateful that I’m getting to play. I don’t get to pitch very many innings, don’t get to face very many batters. But the fact that I still get to be with my team and be there when they need me, that’s awesome.”
“You’ll have kids who want the fix-it button. They want to walk in, push the button and they’re fixed,” Gray said. “In our game, just like any game, you have to do the rehab. Kayce Moore attacked it, and I’m proud of her for that. I knew when she told me ‘Coach, I’m going to throw this spring,’ she was going to throw. I just didn’t know when it would be.
“Kayce did what she had to do. She knows she’s not her best right now, but she can give us a ground ball, and the kids work hard for her. ... We’re trying to take care of her and let her finish out her career as a softball player and go out on a good note.”
“I went into it thinking this was my year and it’s totally not been that way,” Moore said. “This season has mostly meant to me spending these last few months with my team. They are my closest friends. It’s been more about me growing instead of softball.”
Growing as she prepares to face the real world.
“Which I’m terrified of,” Moore said, “but we’ll get there.”