Greenwood softball pitcher Elizabeth Moss is capable of controlling a game with precision pitch placement.
Last season, the one thing Moss couldn’t control was an ailing back.
Battling through pain that began midway through the season, Moss reached the limits of her tolerance during the third game of the state tournament. Moss was sidelined with a fracture in the lower left area of her spine, unable to contribute as her team battled to a third-place finish in the tournament.
After months of rehab and a new focus on remaining healthy, Moss is back in control – ready to do her part to get the Lady Gators another shot at a state title.
Greenwood’s postseason run continues in the Region 4 Tournament, which begins Monday at the WKU Softball Complex. The Lady Gators will learn who they will face when the draw takes place this morning.
“I definitely want to re-prove myself,” Moss said. “I want to be there to take them all the way. I don’t want to do what happened last year. I feel really bad that last year I pushed myself to the point that I couldn’t finish state. I definitely feel like I owe them something.”
Moss said she first felt back pain at the end of spring break, but thought it was simply cramps because she hadn’t stretched properly.
She didn’t tell anyone she wasn’t 100 percent and kept pitching, throwing all but 20 innings for Greenwood in the regular season.
Her back started getting worse around the district and region tournaments. Moss said she would have to pitch a little bit before games just to work out the back pains. By the time the state tournament came around, she could no longer get through the pain.
Moss said she was disappointed she wasn’t able to contribute in the final three games of the season, but she also learned that she should have been more vocal about the injury.
Greenwood coach Penny Reece said she also learned from the injury as well.
“I learned that if you have two good pitchers on the team, you have to utilize both of them,” Reece said. “Last year we tried to help her break some records that had been standing for a while – wins for a season and all that. I feel like in the end we made a mistake doing that.”
Moss was originally going to take two or three weeks off before returning to play summer league travel ball, but when she tried to come back, the pain got worse. She took off the entire summer and most of the fall and didn’t play again until October, with her innings limited.
“It was really weird at first,” Moss said. “It was sad. I got (to the ballpark) and watched people practice and play. I wanted to get out there and pitch and I wasn’t able to do anything.”
The back injury also led to Moss leaving Greenwood in the fall and being home-schooled. Her days consisted of schooling, physical therapy and pitching snaps (drills designed to help delivery and snap of wrists on pitches).
“It definitely wouldn’t have been good for me to sit seven or eight hours,” Moss said. “Since I had to go to physical therapy a lot during the day, I would have missed a lot of school. It was a lot better to be at home so I could have a flexible schedule and be able to heal and get better.
“I missed my teammates. I would even come to middle school practices, open field and stuff. It really motivated me to get back and be sure I didn’t go back to where I was (at the end of last season).”
She returned to Greenwood after Christmas break.
“It was weird,” Moss said. “I know I wasn’t gone for that long, but it was good to see everybody and have fun with friends.”
It wasn’t long before Moss was back in the swing of things.
Once the season began, Moss was back to her usual reliable self.
She has appeared in 24 games for the Lady Gators, with 22 starts and two relief appearances. Moss has allowed five earned runs and 39 hits in 134 innings of work. She has 174 strikeouts this season, and a school record 913 strikeouts for her career.
“I have some good ones over the years that could do a lot of stuff with the ball,” Reece said. “I’ve had kids that could throw the ball hard, had nice change-ups and stuff, but as far as the overall movement on the ball she stands out.”
Moss said last year’s injury has made her stronger.
It’s also made her a better communicator.
“(Reece) has gotten on to me a few times because I didn’t tell her (how I was feeling),” Moss said. “I would go out there and have to come out. I’ve gotten a lot better to where now if it doesn’t feel right I tell her I need to come out.”
She said when she isn’t able to pitch, it’s easier to sit out, knowing senior Brittany Graham can be just as effective.
“I think we are the perfect complement to one another,” Moss said. “I love having her there. She will always be ready to come in. She is a great pitcher.”
Moss still has reoccurring pain, and she will deal with that for the rest of her career.
“You just have to work through it and make sure you don’t push it too far,” Moss said. “I learned that I should have told somebody before that it was bothering me. I’m much more careful now. If I get any pain I shouldn’t keep it going, because I know it will only get worse from there.”