During the first practice of the first year of Layton Carlee Beck’s high school softball career, she felt a tear in her knee. It was her ACL, a common injury in female athletes and one that could sideline a player for up to nine months.
Beck chose to forgo surgery. Instead, she went on to play as a sophomore, tallying 16 starts on the mound and winning four. The next year she improved, pitching in 23 games and winning 11, including a shutout against Alta in the playoffs. It was Layton’s first postseason victory in four years.
The injury finally caught up to her, though. When hit by a pitch over the summer that broke her wrist, Beck visited her doctor one more time. After taking care of the new injury, he checked on the old one and found it had gotten worse. The meniscus was torn. He advised her that if she didn’t have surgery, her high school career would be over. Begrudgingly, she did.
By all accounts, Beck has returned better than ever, recording two shutouts in the early season and a morale-lifting victory over defending champion Roy.
“I feel like I’m playing better because I use to favor my knee a lot more,” the senior said. “Getting the surgery done really helped me get my confidence back.”
One player who has seen her progress is her catcher, senior Lauryn Kirschner.
“Carlee’s been coming back and playing hard,” Kirschner said. “She wanted to be one of the top pitchers in the state, and I think if she keeps practicing like she has she’ll most definitely make it. She’s improved phenomenally for being out for six months.”
The win against Roy was a big one. The Royals had beaten Layton in their past four meetings and entered the game on a six-game winning streak. Beck was able to hold the hot bats of Roy to four one-run innings, while Kirschner’s two home runs gave Beck the run support she needed to complete the upset.
“We’ve got good friends on the Roy team,” Kirschner said. “It was our goal to beat them because they’re such a great team. It was a huge confidence booster for us. I think it’s really helped our team get a better perspective on what it takes to win.”
Beck, Kirschner and the other two seniors — Ashlee Hyatt and Amber Standfier — know they have an important leadership role on the team. The majority of the team is made up of sophomores, young players who Beck hopes will be able to forgo the same struggles she had in her earlier years.
“Our goal as a team is to play our hearts out and try and be better than we were when we were sophomores and juniors,” Beck said. “We just want to take it one step at a time.”
At a glance
Steve Spendlove took over the head coaching duties for Kristy Knight this year. He’d spent the last two years as Knight’s assistant.
Cassidy Anderson is an up-and-coming player for the Lancers. The sophomore shortstop has one home run and two doubles in the first 10 games.
Layton finished 2011 with a record of 14-12, their first winning season since 2007. The Lancers went on to the postseason after winning a play-in game against Cyprus 14-0.