SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Stephen Strasburg, Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson, A.J. Burnett, Kerry Wood and Billy Wagner are on the list of more than 150 current and former Major League Baseball pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery.
The road back is usually an 18-month recovery.
Shawnee senior pitcher Sam Bullock made it back in five months.
“I had my surgery on October 26, 2011 at the Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Anderson,” Bullock said. “I was told that it was an 18-month recovery and with rehab, maybe I could be back for my freshman year of college.”
Instead, after an incredible recovery, Bullock is back to mowing batters down. This past Saturday, she pitched her first complete game of the season in a 5-4 win over Celina to capture the Division II district championship. For the third straight season, Shawnee and pitching ace Bullock will play in the regional tournament. Shawnee will play Newark Licking Valley at 5 p.m. Thursday at Bucyrus in the semifinal round.
After a great junior season in which Bullock garnered First Team All-Ohio honors, she began noticing a problem in her elbow toward the end of the 2011 season.
“It started stretching in the winter of 2011 and I partially tore it against Bath last season,” Bullock said. “I fully tore it last summer when I was playing for the Cincinnati Doom (summer league).”
Bullock’s coach, Lou Seddelmeyer, feared the worst once he heard the news of his star player’s injury.
“She came back from the Cleveland Clinic very upset,” Seddelmeyer said. “I never thought she would be able to play her senior season, let alone pitch.”
Bullock knew she had to take her rehabilitation process seriously if she wanted to make a comeback ahead of schedule.
“My elbow was immobilized for three months,” Bullock said. “I would rehab at OIO (Orthopedic Institute of Ohio) and also at home. It was starting to feel better at the beginning of March and I finally played in the Perry scrimmage for one inning at first base.”
Bullock was pitching just five months after her surgery. Now with one of its leaders back, Shawnee is pushing through another post-season run.
“You can’t replace a First Team All-State pitcher,” Seddelmeyer said. “She means so much to our team and takes pressure off of our fielders.”
Bullock has had the same catcher for most of her pitching career, dating all the way back to middle school.
“Britt Lauck is one of my best friends on and off of the field and it makes the game a lot easier,” Bullock said. “I make her look good and she makes me look good.”
After not having Bullock for most of the season, Lauck is glad to have familiarity back.
“I think the beginning of the year was so different, we were so used to seeing her out there,” Lauck said. “We have been playing since I was in seventh grade and she was in eighth grade. I know how to work with her and she knows how to work with me.”
After years of never making it out of sectionals, the Shawnee softball team is becoming accustomed to playing in the regionals.
“Our team has been faced with a lot of adversity and injuries that we never expected,” Bullock said. “It just shows our character and determination. We push each other to be the best.”
In order to reach new heights for the Shawnee program, Bullock knows her team needs to be confident.
“We need to go in without psyching ourselves out,” Bullock said. “We need to stay positive no matter how the game starts or ends. We will rely on each other.”
Bullock is part of a senior class that has been one of the best softball classes to go through Shawnee.
“We have five seniors, four of them have started since they were freshmen,” Seddelmeyer said. “To win 20 or more games, go to three straight regionals, it’s been an amazing run.”
One tough ace