It didn’t seem like a big deal at first.
Her hand was swollen after throwing batting practice during the week, thinking it might have been overused. She was even cleared to pitch in the conference series opener against the best team, Linfield College. But after one game, her fingers started turning blue and purple.
Something was wrong.
After years of confusing opposing hitters during the Lady Wave softball team’s two state titles in 2011-12, Fallon grad Jill Pinder had another riddle even the medical profession had difficulty solving.
“I really thought nothing of it so the trainers and I agreed to just ice it,” Pinder said as Lewis and Clark College prepared for a conference clash with Linfield in Division III softball last year. “Personally, it seemed like overuse and I’d be back within a few days, but little did I know I wouldn’t play another game that season.”
Pinder saw several specialists after her season shut down.
Was a blood clot causing the swelling? Was there a pinched nerve in the neck? Was the right pitching arm being overused?
Many questions, no answers.
But after six months of her arm throwing curveballs at doctors, Pinder found a specialist who had an idea what could be causing the problem. It came down to removing her first rib but there was still some uncertainty.
“They decided to go ahead do that surgery hoping it would relieve this issue,” Lewis and Clark coach Shawna Feldt said about a possible pinched nerve. “Because their main thinking was that there could potentially be a blood clot in her arm/wrist in her future, which is deadly, we all completely shut her down from any activity.”
Pinder wasn’t sure what would become of the surgery.
“There was much doubt because this surgery either would solve the issue, make the issue worse to a point where it could be too painful to pitch, or not be the overall problem,” Pinder recalled.
And going through her mind was the possibility of not stepping in the pitcher’s circle again.
“I have played softball for a fair majority of my life, so I guess through the season I didn’t want to lose hope of having to stop my career so soon,” Pinder said. “I also had very good friends, some of the being friends outside of softball and some being teammates that were constant support through the season.”
Family, though, was the biggest prescription in Pinder’s recovery.
Her parents, sister and grandfather were by her side.
“They supported me through everything, as this was a hard process being so far away from home,” said Pinder, who also found comfort in talking with her best friend, Dijah Nash, who suffered a major injury, too. “My mom actually flew down for my surgery and stayed for about a month since I couldn’t use my right arm at all. My dad called nearly every day staying updated on my status.”
Pinder spent the rest of the year into the offseason healing, hoping to recover in time for the 2015 season opener. A pitch count was established during the season as Pinder was still rehabilitating. Then came her first appearance of the year, against Linfield, no less.
“She threw lights out,” Feldt said. “She completely shut down the deadly Linfield softball program. She was able to seal the win for our team, which was huge. It was the first time in 13 years we had beaten Linfield. She definitely came back with a passion to play and excitement I had never seen out of her.”
It’s been one of those stories that defeat the odds, much like Pinder shutting down offenses. Instead of striking out batters, she was battling a new foe, her body, and came out ahead. Pinder pitched 3.2 innings and had the continuous support from her team giving it their all.
“In that time, my team never let up as we all worked together to try and beat this team,” Pinder said. “It is a feeling one can never describe as I had great support both playing behind me, in the dugout, along with having my friends in the stands. I realized in that moment through all the hard times that is why I play softball. For awesome memories and great team togetherness.”
After Pinder helped the program defeat a nemsis for the first time in more than a decade, she pitched no more than about three innings per series. But after a frustrating season of not being able to contribute more to the team, Pinder will get her chance next season.
“I would love to contribute as much as I possibly could,” she said. “As far as right now, I need my arm ready to go to Africa where I will be studying abroad. After that, I can only hope that my arm will be recovered and hopefully better to have a last strong season with Lewis and Clark as us juniors want to leave a mark on the program.”
Feldt is hopeful that Pinder can also make a mark on the program as she only has two years left.
“The ultimate goal is for her to have a full functioning body when she is done with softball,” Feldt said. “She pushes herself extremely hard and we just always want to make sure that her safety is most important. She is a tremendous pitcher, and I hope she gets everything she wants out of this sport before time runs out.”