sports   |   softball

A minor setback for a major comeback

After sitting out the 2017 season, Josie Wood is trying to get back into freshman season form.



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Then-freshman pitcher Josie Wood throws a pitch last season against Ohio State University at Andy Mohr Field. Wensi Wang Buy Photos

Strong.

That was the reoccurring word when her teammates and coaches mentioned IU softball sophomore pitcher Josie Wood.

“She’s pushing one of the most amounts of weights, she gets after it in there,” IU assistant and pitching coach Chanda Bell said. “It’s refreshing to have a pitcher that just gets after it not only in pitching but on the other side of the ball too.”

Wood was one of two freshman pitchers IU relied on to handle a majority of the load for the 2016 season.

She led IU with 39 appearances, 13 victories and seven complete games. Wood had a 13-9 record behind a 3.69 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 151.2 innings pitched. Her performance was an integral reason for the Hoosiers finishing the season with a winning record.

Everything was looking up for Wood until a practice in September 2016 made everything come to a screeching halt.

Wood was going through a routine running drill when she felt her knee give out.

“You just kind of know when your body is telling you something," Wood said. "I was in a lot of pain."

The injury itself was unusual. After staying off of her leg for a few days, Wood was able to start walking. She said didn’t know what the injury was, but she said she couldn't imagine it being a devastating one.

Her worst nightmare became a reality as she discovered she tore her ACL.

“When I found out it was my ACL, something sparked me because I knew that I was going to be out this whole next year,” Wood said. “It kind of just motivated me to want to continue. Never once in my head did I feel like giving up.”

To make the procedure easier, she went through the usual process of prehab before surgery to build muscle. Everything went to according to plan as she began rehab.

To get her game back on track, she focused on balance, jumping and lateral movements to try to push off the mound further. She took this opportunity to learn more about the game and how she could be better once she received her next opportunity in the circle.

Wood said the experience was good motivation. 

“Sitting out for a whole year put things into perspective, I just wanted to be back out there," Wood said. 

Her main focus was cheering on her team as much as possible and being the best teammate she could be. She couldn’t do anything but watch as her team took a step backward in 2017, finishing with a losing record.

Wood finally began sprinting and working off the mound this past summer. 

“It was kind of depressing honestly because you live and breathe for sports,” Wood said. “You wake up every day. You just have that passion, and when someone tells you that you can’t run that day, you can’t do this or that, it breaks your heart. But honestly, I think that’s what gave me motivation. It was encouraging to want to get back out there with my girls.”

Going into fall ball, there were doubts running through her mind of whether something like this could happen again. 

Wood wasn’t so sure about herself to begin with, but once she settled in, she realized her ACL was stronger than ever. Officially a year removed from the injury, Wood continued where her freshman campaign left off. In a combined 11 innings of work through four games, she had 13 strikeouts after only giving up nine hits and one run.

After the solid showing in the preseason, Wood started for the Hoosiers in the first official game of the 2018 campaign against Boise State as part of the Kajikawa Classic. But she had a nightmare performance in her first real game back. In the first inning, Wood gave up a grand slam and allowed six runs on five hits in 2.1 innings pitched.

“I think she exudes that confidence,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “With how we’re losing as much as we are, everybody has doubts. I think if she can talk to herself and have the strong voice there, we’re going to start seeing the performances that she’s capable of having.”

Despite having a poor performance in the opener, Wood was credited for the first victory of the season the following weekend against Boston College. She only gave up one run and five hits in four innings pitched.

This hasn’t been the ideal comeback season for Wood, as she has a team-high 6.41 ERA. But she’ll need to continue growing and become stronger if the Hoosiers hope to be competitive with Big Ten play right around the corner.

“We’ve seen such great process in her being a lefty with power and we’re excited about her development and where she is,” Stanton said. “She gives us a different dimension. We have a lot of faith in her and believe in her to get the job done.”

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