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Schools of Thought

You can knock her down, but not out

April 21, 2008
By Bill Cain, The Leader-Herald
Never again will I make fun of a friend, reminiscing about some time when they were cramping up or hopping off with a sprained ankle, recalling, “You were crying like a little girl with a skinned knee!”

Not after what sophomore pitcher Mollee Putnam did Wednesday in a softball game against Scotia-Glenville.

The Gloversville ace snapped a pitch to the plate, only to have Scotia-Glenville’s Cara Celorio hit it right back at her, hitting her square on the chin. These things happen in softball and the pitchers usually have time to get a glove up or duck out of the way.


“I saw the ball coming, but I didn’t think … I tried to turn my head, but I didn’t have time to react at all,” Putnam said Thursday at practice. “I tried, but it just came in and hit me and I went down. But I got the girl out.”

Well, she helped.

It was a 1-4-3, after the ball bounced to second baseman Cassie Hennessey, who threw on to first baseman Maria McAllister for the out.

That was helpful, but more of a lucky bounce than anything. What happened a few minutes later was far more impressive.

First, there was the pain.

It doesn’t hit you as quickly as the ball. It waits.

“I got back up and walked to the bench and it just hit me,” Putnam said. “It felt like I got hit again.”

Despite the pain, Putnam decided she had to go back out to the mound, where the pitchers’ rubber sits 39 feet from the front of the plate and when she releases the ball she stands just 35 feet from the bat. It was the second inning of a scoreless game and she didn’t want to leave her team hanging.

So Putnam returned to the mound, where she spent her last few moments on her backside. She had the imprint from the stitching of the softball showing through the swelling on her chin.

She then went to the business of imprinting that stitching in the pocket of catcher Katelynn Benson’s mitt. She struck out the next batter she faced.

Most girls — scratch that — most people would have sat on the bench with their tears doing as much to melt the ice they were holding to their face as the warm, swollen tissue.

Putnam said she teared up a little at times during the game, but she kept pitching.

She iced her chin between innings and went to the emergency room after the game, where she was told nothing was broken. That was a relief, but she was probably more relieved just moments after the impact, when she realized none of her braces had been broken.

A broken bone wouldn’t have been a first. She broke her ankle two years ago in her first varsity game, sliding into second base. This hurt more, she said.

There also was momentary worry that she might have a concussion when she asked how many outs there were. She said she remembers everything, except what pitch she threw to Celorio.

The rest of the game, she moved her pitches in and out a little more, trying to avoid serving one down the middle. Still, Celorio smacked two more pitches up the middle before the game was over. That’s just where some batters put the ball, regardless of where the pitch is or where they try to steer it.

Putnam said she has been receiving tips about how to better protect herself against comebackers, but opts to pitch first, and then worry about fielding. Otherwise, her pitching motion, her rhythm and location, could all suffer.

She just went back out there and pitched, expecting she’d be ready for the next one that came up the middle.

The comebacker made her coaches’ hearts skip a beat. More than for the sake of her teammates or the game, with a season full of batters lined up to face her, Putnam had to go back out on the mound for her own piece of mind.

“I was proud of myself ... for going back out and pitching.”

Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at

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