BRADEN RIVER — She kept it a secret all summer long.
She didn’t let on to her former teammates that she wouldn’t be returning to the mound next season, and would instead be standing in the opposing dugout.
It wasn’t out of spite or disrespect but rather it was a decision that Lakewood Ranch High sophomore pitcher Huntyre Elling had been contemplating with for quite some time. But it wasn’t until two days before school let out last spring that Elling learned she would be transferring from Braden River to Lakewood.
“Over there (at Braden River), I had a lot of fun, but all of my friends from middle school were here,” Elling said. “I’m more comfortable now that all of my friends are here, and I also moved back out where I used to live.”
During her freshman season, Elling was one of two Braden River pitchers and helped lead the Lady Pirates to the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
After transferring to Lakewood, Elling decided to tryout for the softball team knowing if she made it there was a good chance she would have to go up against her old team.
Such was the case Feb. 19 when the 16-year-old right-hander got the call on the mound against the Lady Pirates — the Lady Mustangs biggest rival — in the first district game of the season.
“At first I was excited, and then the nerves started kicking in,” Elling said of the start. “I just dug down deep and said to myself, ‘I’ve got to pitch my game.’
“I was excited,” she added. “But I definitely had to try and stay focused the entire game on doing my best and not worry about who I’m facing.”
In the days leading up to the rivalry game, Elling didn’t know if she would get the start. For Elling, it was more about getting a chance to return to the field where her high school softball career began and the thrill of competing against her former teammates.
“I’m just looking forward to playing against my old teammates and seeing my old teammates,” she added. “They’re respectful, so I think they’ll still be nice to me no matter what happens.”
And with all eyes on her, Elling pitched perhaps the best game of her young career. She tossed a complete game shutout for Lakewood, striking out six while leading the Lady Mustangs to a 6-0 victory.
Sarah Burnett went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles to lead the way for Lakewood at the plate. Rachel Slowik and Kayla Schappacher both doubled and Stacie Nelson, Jenn Trotter, Dana Hutchins and Taylor Newton all recorded an RBI.
“I kind of knew what they were strong at hitting, so it was more of an adrenaline pumper knowing I’m pitching against my old team,” Elling said.
Trisha Zuknick pitched five innings for Braden River, allowing four runs while striking out four and walking three. Hannah Loyer finished the game on the mound for the Lady Pirates, allowing two runs while striking out two and walking two. Courtney Mirabella and Nicole Tira both went 1-for-3 at the plate to lead the way for Braden River.
Since joining the Lady Mustangs softball team, Elling has had to adjust to playing with an entirely new set of teammates while also having to fight for her spot on the team.
“They’re great,” Elling said of her teammates. “They’re really welcoming.”
But perhaps even more important than that has been Elling’s ability to learn her new team’s pre-game rituals and team cheers.
“They all have different cheers for each player, but we have more personal cheers for each player,” Elling said. “Most teams listening probably wouldn’t understand what we were saying.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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