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Prep softball: Cancer can't stop Grizzlies' softball player

Published March 23, 2011 11:44 am

Softball • After chemotherapy, Abeyta worked to regain her form on the mound.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Copper Hills pitcher Shelby Abeyta complained about a stomachache in January 2010, she never dreamed her world would be turned upside down by cancer.

A heating pad from her grandmother quelled the pain initially, but a month later, severe stomach cramps forced her to the doctor, where an ultrasound found a tumor the size of a football.

A week later the diagnosis confirmed that Abeyta had ovarian cancer, but instead of thinking about herself, Abeyta had thoughts of only her team and how soon she could be back pitching for the Grizzlies.

"It was pretty hard at first and I remember I used to have to schedule my chemo around our games so I could be there to support my team," said Abeyta.

Despite her frequent visits to the doctor and trips for chemotherapy, Abeyta somehow found the will to pitch the Grizzlies into the 2010 state tournament.

"We got a note from Shelby's doctor that said it was OK for her to play," said Copper Hills Coach Shane Lucas. "She wasn't as effective last year but her love for life and her passion for softball helped lift her up and get her through some tough times."

About the only time Abeyta murmured a complaint was when the doctors told her that her long, flowing hair would all fall out.

"That was the hardest part and it left me bawling," she said.

Abeyta said the support of the student body at Copper Hills and her teammates on the softball team got her through the darkest days.

"When I was on the softball field it helped me feel good because I knew my team was behind me and I could just think about playing ball," said Abeyta.

The 2010 season ended for Copper Hills with a second-round loss to Viewmont. While her teammates went home for the summer, Abeyta was only getting started.

The will was there, the fastball was not and Abeyta spent hours on the arduous road to putting some pep back into her best pitch. She spent the summer lifting and running and daring to dream that she could regain her form. While hours of conditioning helped, the only place she truly felt solace was on the mound.

The senior-to-be spent 90 minutes every day for six months pitching to her dad, Steve, or pitching coach Cathy DePew, trying to regain the form and the 62 mph fastball that opponents chased with reckless abandon during the 2009 season.

"I had a few setbacks along the way," said Abeyta. "I was pitching with my dad and I kicked a can of water over because I just couldn't get my old speed back and was stuck at 55 miles per hour."

Lucas said his senior leader has made it just about all the way back.

"She is still not as strong as she was before but the girls feel comfortable when she's on the mound and know that she will take care of us," he said.

Entering the week, the Grizzlies were off to a 7-2 start with Abeyta going 5-2 on the mound. With enough talent to earn a scholarship to Snow College, and a prognosis that remains cancer-free, Abeyta has her sights set firmly on a region title and a deep run into the 5A state tournament. Copper Hill's Shelby Abeyta

Copper Hills pitcher Shelby Abeyta was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February of 2010. Her most recent checkup three weeks ago confirmed that Abeyta remains cancer-free.

The 2011 softball campaign started with Abeyta pitching the Grizzlies past Brighton, Davis, Jordan and Alta to earn four consecutive victories.

Abeyta has earned a softball scholarship to Snow College where she hopes to continue playing as long as the game will have her.