|San Jacinto News Times - Local News
Copyright 2014 - Polk County Publishing Company
Trojan softball player pitches against all odds
By CHARLES BALLARD
San Jacinto News-Times Sports
A Coldspring-Oakhurst High School softball player is back in the game after being told that she may never walk again without assistance. Two years ago Sarah Hanson was accidentally struck by a sports utility vehicle (SUV) on Hwy. 156 while helping her mother, Tammy Billnoski, and best friend, Ashlyn Monroe. While she was attempting to cross the highway, the last thing she recalls is hearing her mother screaming. Ashlyn turned to see what was wrong and witnessed as Sarah was struck, her small body bouncing off the hood of the SUV, landing on the side of the road. "I was petrified, I could not move, I could not breathe or speak. It was horrible," Ashlyn said. Gathering their composure, Ashlyn and Tammy ran over to where Sarah's broken body laid. "At first glance we could not see her breathing. I just knew my best friend was dead," Ashlyn said. As they looked closer they could see that Sarah was breathing, but her breathing was very shallow. 'I knew we needed immediate help so I started calling 911, but could not get a clear line on my cell," Ashlyn said. However; a person that had witnessed the accident had already called and help arrived very shortly. The doctor told family and close friends that the next few hours would tell the story of life or death for Sarah. Prayers were answered, and as Sarah began to regain consciousness, and realizing what had happened, she started to ask questions. The first question was, "When will I be able to play ball again?" With a grimace the doctor said, "Sarah, both of your legs are broken, one of them in two places. Your pitching hand is crushed and one of your hips is destroyed. You may have to use a cane or walker for the rest of your life." In Sarah's mind this was strike one against the doctor. As she started a very long two-year rehabilitation program, she realized that it was going to be a tough fight. One of Sarah's dreams in life was to play varsity softball with her very best friend Ashlyn. During a softball game, while still confined to a wheelchair, Sarah attended a game to watch her team mates play. "It was so very hard for me to sit in the dugout, not able to play softball with them. I knew then that I had to get out of my wheelchair and get on with the rehabilitation," she said. Giving the go-ahead, the doctor told Sarah that she was cleared to stand and start a program in an attempt to strengthen her legs and back muscles. Hearing this, Sarah asked the doctor how long it would be before she could play softball again. The doctor's reply was, "Sarah you may not be able to play competitive sports again." This was strike two against the doctor in Sarah's mind. Sarah continued a long and hard two year exercise routine to rebuild her legs and muscles to a good level. During that time, when Sarah was having an exceptionally bad week, Ashlyn talked her into going to a movie to see if that would help cheer her up. When they got to the movie Sarah told Ashlyn that she couldn't go in and sit in the wheelchair section. "I just can't do it yet Ashlyn," Sarah told her. Well, what are good friends for, Ashlyn thought to herself, telling Sarah, "No problem, I will carry you in on my back and we will sit wherever you want." My first thought was wow. What a true friend. As Sarah began to get her legs back and started to walk again, a nurse gave her a walker and told her, "Here, use this, it will help." Sarah knew in her mind that if she relied on the walker or a cane, she would not get back to softball in time for her senior year. She used the walker for only a few days and then gave it back to the nurse and told her to give it to somebody that really needed it. Once Sarah started walking well enough to work-out and start building her body back into a competitive shape, she again was hit with another hurdle. The doctor said, "Pitching would most likely be completely of the question because she had just too many steel rods in her hand that was crushed from the accident." Strike three for the doctor, Sarah thought. She started different techniques pitching, trying to get her skills back a close to what they were before the accident. Several coaches offered many suggestions and comments in order to help her, but it was Sarah's mom, Tammy, and best friend Ashlyn that finally put the ball in her hand and got her pitching again. Well; dreams do come true. You can ask little red-headed Sarah. On January 28, against Montgomery, she pitched her first game in a competitive environment during fall ball. At first she was not sure that she could run to first base if she even hit the ball. Her fear was soon eased as she heard Old Blue (the referee) call "Safe" as she crossed first base. "I turned and looked in the stands and there was not a dry eye to be found. Little Sarah had made it back." recalls Jennifer Hoagland, a friend. "It has always been Ashlyn's and my dream to be able to play our senior year on the Lady Trojan's softball team," Sarah said. On any given night that the Lady Trojans play ball, you will find a feisty little red headed pitcher on the team roster. Although you may or may not get to witness a performance of Sarah during any one game, she is part of the starting pitching team for the Coldsspring- Oakhurst Lady Trojans. So, if someone ever tells you that there are no such things as miracles, just attend a game and witness one for yourself.