Trojan horse: Turner's Packard is player of year
BELOIT—Every athlete plays through the pain at some point in his or her career.
Kelsie Packard took it to the extreme.
The recent Beloit Turner High graduate separated her throwing shoulder halfway through the 2015 softball season. She missed a couple of games to rehabilitate the injury with hopes of getting back on the mound, where she spent the previous three seasons overpowering Rock Valley Conference opponents.
Packard did return, and though she never was close to 100 percent, she was good enough to lead the Trojans to a WIAA Division 2 state tournament berth. A first-team selection to the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association all-state team, Packard is The Gazette's 2015 area player of the year.
“It was definitely harder than I thought it would be,” Packard said of coming back from the injury. “I didn't think I was going to be able to pitch heading into regionals.
“But once you get out there, you tend to forget about the pain and just play.”
Packard's numbers—both pitching and hitting—were staggering. She finished with a 10-1 record on the mound, with her only loss of the season coming in the Division 2 state semifinal game to Waupun. She struck out 139 batters in 72 1/3 innings and finished with an ERA of 1.16. She had four shutouts and two no-hitters.
At the plate, Packard was a nightmare for opposing pitchers. She finished with .484 batting average and reached base safely nearly seven times out of every 10 at-bats. Packard belted nine home runs, scored 36 times and drove in 34 runs.
Longtime Turner coach Bob Sulser said Packard was a once-in-a-lifetime player.
“What stands out most about Kelsie is her commitment and devotion to the game,” Sulser said. “She exceeded all of our expectations.
“And really, that whole senior group took this program to new heights because of their commitment. It's going to be a big loss.”
Packard is back to playing summer softball with her Illinois Chill AAU team out of Northbrook. The team leaves today for a national tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In August, Packard will leave home for the first time as she embarks on a collegiate career at Florida Gulf Coast University.
She's got plenty of memories to pack along.
“Playing with my Class of 2015 teammates has been amazing,” Packard said. “We had a lot of pressure on us to get to state because it was our last year playing together, and we did.
“We didn't play our best game up there, but we got the program back there. That was our No. 1 goal.”
The pain of losing at state and the pain in her shoulder will eventually subside.
The memories of an oustanding four-year high school career and a trip to state as a senior during a standout 2015 season will remain.