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Archive for Friday, March 9, 2007

Rehab finally pays off for KU softball catcher Pottorf

March 9, 2007

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Two shoulder operations. Two missed softball seasons.

Elle Pottorf knows all about low-lows.

"My lowest point was probably after my second surgery and it wasn't any better," said Pottorf, a red-shirt sophomore catcher for Kansas University. "I thought I'd never be able to play the sport I love and be pain-free."

But now Pottorf is free from pain, and she's KU's leading hitter on the eve of the home-opening Jayhawk Invitational this weekend at Arrocha Ballpark.

In the Jayhawks' first 18 games, Pottorf has fashioned a .371 batting average. She's also the team leader in RBIs (17), slugging percentage (.721) and on-base percentage (.482.)

Pottorf dived for a ball and tore ligaments from her collarbone. The ensuing surgery forced her to miss her senior season with Washburn Rural.

Yet she had healed sufficiently by that fall to become the Jayhawks' regular catcher as a true freshman. Pottorf started 53 of KU's 55 games during the 2005 season.

She was hurting, though.

"On a good day," Pottorf said, "I was 75 to 80 percent."

Hardly anyone in the stands and few opposing players had any idea that Pottorf was wincing every time she threw the ball back to the pitcher.

"She played in pain and never complained," senior first baseman Nicole Washburn said. "She doesn't really show it when she's hurting."

"There were no guarantees," KU coach Tracy Bunge said about Pottorf's second operation. "There were all kinds of fears. As a coach, all you can do is hope and pray for the best."

Meanwhile, Pottorf did about all a medical red shirt could do. She rehabbed, she attended every practice, and she was in the dugout for every home game.

"There were some road games she didn't get to go to," Senior pitcher Kassie Humphreys said, "and she felt bad about that, but she was a big voice for us in the dugout. A lot of times, she would talk me through games."

Through it all, Pottorf expected she would be ready to participate during last autumn's exhibition season. She was, but not without discomfort.

That's when Pottorf suffered her lowest low.

"My teammates," she said, "helped me through it."

Meanwhile, she continued to rehab. Twice a day - once before classes and once in the afternoon - she would dutifully trudge into the Parrott Complex training room for treatment. She underwent heat rubs, wore sleeves, the works.

And then :

"All of a sudden," she said, "it was fine."

Pottorf's pre-classes training-room stints are over, but she still shows up an hour before practice each day for the application of a warming ointment, and stretching exercises.

"I couldn't be more happy for her," Bunge said. "It's been a frustrating process, so it's a real joy to see her having such a good start."

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