Cary-Grove pitching shines through injuries

Kyle Grillot - 
Cary-Grove senior Lauren Stanley pitches against Prairie Ridge during the fourth inning of the girls softball game Wednesday in Cary. Cary-Grove beat Prairie Grove, 10-8.
Kyle Grillot - Cary-Grove senior Lauren Stanley pitches against Prairie Ridge during the fourth inning of the girls softball game Wednesday in Cary. Cary-Grove beat Prairie Grove, 10-8.
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CARY – Lauren Stanley can trace her shoulder problems to the end of last summer.

It’s an ordeal that has spanned nearly 10 months and slowed what the Cary-Grove senior pitcher had hoped would be a successful season to end her high school career.

But a strained rotator cuff and bicep tendinitis has limited Stanley to four games (two starts) this season. She officially was cleared last week to play. Stanley didn’t think it was a big deal when her shoulder began hurting last summer, and in the fall she started physical therapy. However, her shoulder continued to get worse and over the winter she attempted a rigorous physical therapy program and received a cortisone ejection.

“The experience last year gave me a lot more confidence from previous years,” Stanley said. “It’s been hard for it to take so long for an injury, especially when I was excited for my senior year, but it’s getting better.”

Coming off a junior year when she thrived while ace Lindsay Efflandt was sidelined with an injury, Stanley was hoping that experience would spur her to a stellar senior year.

For Stanley, the lingering pain is something she will have to endure whenever she pitches.

“Through physical therapy I had to strengthen the muscles around it so now it’s icing and ibuprofen,” Stanley said.

Fortunately for the Trojans (11-7, 4-1 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division), their pitching depth has shined through injuries. C-G has started four pitchers this season – Stanley, junior Amanda DeGroote, junior Caitlyn Adams and senior Caroline Zasadil – yet the Trojans are tied for first place in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division. Adams also is coming back from an elbow injury.

It’s created a good problem for C-G coach Tammy Olson. The bevy of pitchers allows Olson to potentially create better matchups for the Trojans, although she avoids planning too far ahead as to who pitches when given the weather issues this season.

“I’m certainly cognizant that everyone wants to play,” Olson said.

DeGroote emerged as the workhorse on the staff with Stanley and Adams nursing their injuries early in the season. DeGroote embraced the role as the Trojans’ No. 1 pitcher while her teammates were sidelined.

“It’s exciting, but they’re such good friends of mine,” DeGroote said. “To have them back is exciting.”

Having multiple pitching options on any given game day is a perk for C-G. DeGroote said by being able to use different pitchers and not rely on just one arm, it helps keep a pitcher’s arm fresh for every game. Typically, most teams only use two pitchers during a season.

Olson said watching their pitching counts and moving them around to capitalize on their strengths factors into her decision-making process.

“I think they’re all handling it extremely well,” Olson said of her pitchers. “In high school, you kind of like that day off. Them knowing they’re not going to have to pitch every day is a relief in itself. Certainly they want to be [in the circle], but not having to be that person every day is helpful.”

Adams said it hasn’t been too bad coming back from her elbow injury, and building stamina hasn’t been a big issue because she ran cross country in the fall. Physical therapy helped her regain strength in her elbow.

“Once I started, I got back into the flow of things,” Adams said. “We’re all pretty close. We’re all there to get the job done.”

With the playoffs beginning in less than a month, C-G ideally would go with one pitcher during the postseason. But there still are plenty of games left before Olson needs to make that decision.

Despite starts being split among the pitchers, they insist their relationship with one another is strong and, ultimately, they just want to help the Trojans win.

“We all give each other confidence and push each other between all of us pitchers,” Stanley said. “If we’re warming up, we’ll ask each other what we’re doing wrong if we don’t think we’re throwing well. We don’t have anything against each other.”

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