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Commanderette on road to recovery after ACL tear

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By Brandon Mattingly

The Washington County softball team started the season with an impressive 15-0 win over Burgin last week, but the Commanderettes were without one of their regulars in the lopsided victory and that won’t be changing for a few more weeks.

Samantha Mudd, though, is on the comeback trail and has her mind set on an April 15 return at home against Pulaski County.

Mudd, a senior first baseman, tore her ACL in the Washington County High School powderpuff game back in October.

“I was going for a flag and I went one way and my foot stayed in the ground because I was wearing metal cleats and you’re not supposed to do that on turf,” Mudd said. “One foot stayed planted and my whole body twisted and my knee popped.”

She had a MRI performed the next day, revealing the tear, but it would be a month before she would undergo surgery and another month before she could begin physical therapy. Before she knew it, her senior softball season was right around the corner and with the typical six to eight-month recovery needed for the injury, the season appeared to be lost.

“She took senior portraits and came and turned everything into me and said she couldn’t play,” said Washington County Head Coach Paul Coulter. “I told her, ‘You’re still part of the team. I want you to come keep book and do whatever you can and I’m going to hang on to your uniform until you come back and get it.’”

Coulter’s intuition proved spot on, as it wasn’t long before Mudd decided to take one more shot at getting on the field.

“Three days later, her dad called and said she’d been upset and I told him her uniform is in the bag,” Coulter said with a laugh. “It’s waiting here for her. I’m not giving it to anybody.”

Mudd weighed her options and decided that her place was in the dugout with the rest of her team, so she sought permission to resume doing what she loves. This being her last opportunity to play for the Commanderettes worked to her advantage.

“I talked to my dad about it. It’s my senior year and this is my sport,” Mudd said. “I thought I’d try, so I went to my physical therapist and she was skeptical. She said if I was a junior she wouldn’t let me play, but since I’m a senior she’s going to let me go ahead and play in April.”

Mudd has been receiving treatment three times a week, doing running and jumping exercises that focus on strengthening her injured knee. Coulter, who said he initially thought there was no way she’d play, said Mudd is now jogging and doing wiffle ball hitting drills. He’s optimistic that he’ll have the senior back around her target date.

With an injury that is teetering on being season-ending, the deciding factor in a return being plausible may have actually been Mudd’s natural position on the field.

“It’s very helpful, because if I was a shortstop I’d have to move,” Mudd said of the advantage of playing first base. “I just pretty much have to field and catch the ball with very limited movement, so that helps. I feel like if I was in a different spot I wouldn’t be able to come back.”

While she recovers, Coulter said Mudd has taken on a new role with the team and that it’s come as second nature to her.

“She’s basically been another coach for me,” he said. “She’s been working with some of the younger girls since she can’t practice and she’s got good fundamentals with fielding and hitting, so she’s helping me coach while she can’t play.”

“I’ve been playing softball since I was in teeball, so I know a lot about it,” Mudd added. “Some of the new players coming in haven’t really had the same kind of exposure and coach (Coulter) can’t get around to everybody, so I’m just trying to help them out. My dad was a coach and he’s helping me help them. It’s gotten me back in it to where I’m not sitting on the sidelines all the time.”

With their entire team returning from last season, Washington County will be in the running for a 19th District title this year and Mudd said she can’t wait to be a part of that. She’s not, however, going to put herself in a position to hold the team back if her knee becomes a problem.

“I don’t want to come back and hurt the team. I want to come back and help them win,” she said. “We’re capable of a lot, which makes it harder (to be out). I feel like I’m letting down the team by not being there, but they’re strong enough that they can do anything. They’re going to have a good season with or without me.”

The Commanderettes are scheduled to have completed 15 games and will have 14 regular season games remaining by Mudd’s target return date of April 15.