The Wolfpacker

May 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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sion of the game is, by and large, a defensive contest that often results in extremely low- scoring outcomes — mainly because of the prowess of hurlers that can throw the equiva- lent of 90 miles per hour from a distance that's 10 feet closer to home plate than the 60 feet, six inches between the mound and home in baseball. I BY BRIAN RAPP n the world of fast-pitch softball, the most dominant player on the field is the pitcher. Unlike slow-pitch, the fast-pitch ver- "I get it in both my hands and feet," Peeler said. "And I have no control when it hap- pens. In games, between innings, I have a trainer massage my hand to keep the swell- ing down, but if I have a long inning it's hard for me to grip the ball by the end." Surgery can correct TOS, but Peeler said the possibility of damage to the nerves in the shoulder made her decide against having it. On top of those two conditions, Peeler Senior Pitcher Morgan Peeler's Career Is A Tale Of Perseverance Still, the second of three children of Todd PLAYING WITH PAIN also had heart surgery when she was younger and now has occasional tachycardia (uncon- trolled fast heart beat). But in spite of a list NC State senior Morgan Peeler likes being the focal point of the game. "Ever since fifth grade, when I was play- ing for an older traveling team [then as a second baseman] and saw this one girl pitch … I just really got interested in pitching," she recalled. "You're involved in every play, and you're the center of attention, like a quarter- back in football — and when you're little, you really enjoy that." But unlike all those who have preceded Peeler in the circle in the last eight years of Wolfpack softball, the Pack's lone senior hurler this season has had to overcome phys- ical setbacks that more than likely would have spelled the end of any other pitcher's career. Since her high school playing days in Rockwell, N.C., Peeler has struggled with recurring swelling and numbness in her right arm and hand — which also happens to be her pitching arm. "I just thought it was something that hap- pened to all pitchers," she said. "It can hap- pen at any time, for any reason. I've strug- gled with it my whole life, but until last summer no one really knew what it was." After an auto accident in April 2011 side- lined her for a week, and the numbness and swelling continued, Peeler consulted a spe- cialist and was finally diagnosed with not one but two rare maladies. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is caused by a compression of a nerve bundle in the shoulder, usually by overdeveloped muscle tissue or even the first rib of the rib cage. The result is numbness and occasional blockage of circulation in the shoulder and arm, both of which Peeler suffers from. The diagnosis last April also revealed Raynaud's Disease, a condition in which areas of the body can become numb through inability to adapt to temperature changes. 62 ■ THE WOLFPACKER of ailments more often found in people 30 years or older, Peeler has provided the Pack with an extra arm in a bullpen that has been hard hit the past two years with unexpected defections. "Morgan was recruited to be a No. 2 pitcher for us," ninth-year NC State head coach Lisa Navas explained. "She was never expected to be No. 1, but she fell into that role this year. And she's done a great job with it." After seeing action her first three years in Raleigh as a reserve behind Lindsey Cam- pana (in 2009), Stephanie Call (2010) and freshman Kayla Cox last spring, Peeler was expected to be Cox's backup again this sea- son — until Cox opted to transfer to a school closer to her home in Florida after just one season with the Pack. That left Peeler as the experienced veteran charged with not only assuming the mantle of No. 1 pitcher, but also breaking in fresh- man Emily Weiman to the world of college softball. "That could be hard when you're fighting for a position," Peeler admitted, "but Em- ily and I knew we needed each other to get through this season. We work together to get a successful outcome, and we've become best friends — she even wrote my speech for Senior Day." With the duo splitting starts on the mound, they've compiled a combined ERA of 2.70. Peeler has allowed 57 earned runs in 1471 /3 innings of work (2.71 ERA) while compiling 80 strikeouts and an 8-11 record. She leads the Pack in fewest runs (85), earned runs (57) and hits (128) allowed — but also in hit batters (22) and walks (97), including five in two innings in NC State's 5-1 loss at Virginia in the regular-season finale April 29. Those extremes mirror the highs and lows of the Pack's season as a whole this spring, a and Mitzy Peeler can look back at a career that included two all-state selections in high school (and a 25-1 record her junior year at Central Cabarrus, where she played with cur- rent Pack teammate Bethany Wells and close friend Ally Blake, a senior catcher for UNC), her signing with NC State as a junior (over the Tar Heels because, "I liked that Coach Navas gets to know players at a personal level, and I felt I'd be a better fit here") and a four-year legacy that includes 77 appear- ances in the circle, with 58 starts and 22 wins, including a career high of 10 in 2011. She'll also remember her first win, in 2009, against Illinois-Chicago (4-1), strik- ing out her friend, Blake, in a game against UNC last year (and then being asked by Blake to be in Blake's wedding prior to the start of a game this season) and — in what is probably the high point of her Pack career to date — her 10-inning, four-strikeout, 5-4 win over Maryland April 21, the longest stint in her four years in Raleigh. "I haven't accomplished all that I'd hoped to," Peeler admitted. "But I've played some of my best games this year, and I wouldn't trade the friendships I've made, the educa- tion [she'll graduate with a degree in sociol- ogy next month] and the new qualities I've discovered in myself for anything." "She's one of the nicest kids we've had here, but she's also a competitor," Navas said. "If we needed her to, she could have played second or short, with no depth in the pitching staff we've never been able to allow her to be that kind of player for us. "She's pushed through a lot of things to contribute what she has to the program, and we're going to miss that experience." ■ an 8-11 record, a 2.71 ERA and 80 strikeouts. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS In the regular season this year, Peeler posted season in which NC State defeated a top-10 team (Georgia) in February, but has gone 15-23 since (5-15 in ACC games) to enter the ACC Tournament with a 22-30 record — the worst in program history. "We've shown we have the talent to win, and that's probably the most frustrating thing of all," Peeler said. "We just struggle with finishing tight games [16 of NC State's 30 losses have been by one or two runs] because sometimes we try to do too much, and oth- ers maybe we're not totally focused in the moment."

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