Beth Ann Hamilton was exactly where she wanted to be Wednesday night.
On a softball field.
Hamilton played center field, then pitched the final three innings to pick up the win in Henry Clay's 7-6 victory over visiting Paul Laurence Dunbar.
That she was on the field is testament to her determination.
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After a solid eighth-grade season, Hamilton hurt her shoulder as a freshman, while pitching against Lafayette.
She played through the season, as well as a travel-league season, despite nagging pain.
She continued to play on and off through her sophomore season but eventually required surgery for a torn labrum.
The shoulder was aggravated last year when she made a throw from center field to home plate.
"It's been a struggle," Hamilton said after Wednesday's game. "It's bearable, just because I've played on it for three years. But it still hurts."
The struggle has meant a change in career plans.
"She was on track to play ball in college, and all of the shoulder issues just held her back, and she finally came to the conclusion that she wasn't going to be able to play in college with her injuries," said Paul Hamilton, her father. "I think she's good with that, but she wanted to finish out her senior season and play with her teammates, so she worked out really hard this winter to get in shape so that she could play through her senior year. And so far, so good."
Henry Clay Coach George Beard is being cautious in how much action Beth Ann gets in the pitching circle. The coach hopes to build up her innings and have her ready to go for a longer spell when district tournament play opens.
"I'm extremely proud of her in the sense that I know she has that fire within her to stand up and just keep working no matter what the pain is that she goes through," Beard said. "She's a fighter. And that's what we want all our kids to be, is fighters."
The fighter has had to go through physical therapy four times in the past three years.
"I just love the game so much," she said. "I've played since I was 4 years old. I really wanted to have my senior season. I had to work back to get it."
And although her dream of playing college ball has been shelved, college is still on her to-do list. She has a full academic scholarship to the University of Louisville, where she plans to study bioengineering and someday become an anesthesiologist.
Even Beth Ann's mother, Sherry, has learned by watching her daughter persevere.
"Just her determination and her will to actually get back out on the field regardless of how much pain she was in," Sherry said. "Trying to support her team. Because she would be in a lot of pain and she would see that they were down, and she just wanted to get out there and play. It didn't matter if she was hurting or not, she would just suck it up and do what she could until she just couldn't do anymore."
Hamilton scored what proved to be the decisive run when she scored from first on Sarah Parsons' two-run double in the sixth inning. That gave the Lady Blue Devils (10-7) a 7-4 lead.
Dunbar (4-11) made things interesting with a pair of unearned runs in the seventh, but Hamilton stranded the tying run at second base.
Henry Clay's Emily Miller rapped a solo homer and an RBI double. Parsons also had three hits.
Riley Brown had three hits for Dunbar.