Hempfield softball's Kasey Kolick is on the mend
After winning a pair of WPIAL girls softball championships in 1998 and 2009, one might say that Hempfield Area coach Bob Kalp has an eye for talent.
When he saw then-freshman Kasey Kolick participate in fall ball her first semester at the school, he didn't have to look twice. “As soon as I saw her play I knew she had that natural talent to become an outstanding player,” he said.
In Kolick's first varsity season that year, she more than lived up to his expectations. She had a .560 batting average, which included four home runs and 21 runs batted in, and an even more remarkable four strikeouts in 50 at bats. Kolick earned all-section and All-East honors.
“Kasey is a prototype No. 4 hitter, but we also can use her in the No. 3 slot or as our leadoff batter,” Kalp said. “She has power and she runs well. She is an excellent contact hitter, as her low strikeouts-number indicates. Defensively, we have her in left field or we use her as our designated player (DP). She is a total team player.
“Against Norwin she hit the longest home run I've seen hit,” the coach said.
However, there is a “but” in the Kasey Kolick story.
As she was blistering opposing pitchers as a freshman, Kolick was burdened with a sore right throwing shoulder, with the condition persisting while she played summer ball for the Pittsburgh Spirit (18-and-under) traveling team. An MRI indicated a stretched labrum, requiring physical therapy three times a week for two hours per session, stretching her shoulder and adding deep-tissue massages to restore muscle mass.
But with her sophomore season approaching, Kolick's shoulder discomfort continued, necessitating a second medical opinion and another MRI. That second opinion revealed a tear in the upper portion of the labrum, Kolick said. Surgery followed on May 9, 2012 — an anniversary she chooses not to celebrate, other than to note the beginning of a return to normal.
Kolick's surgery, which repaired the labrum by putting anchors into her shoulder, ended her sophomore season before it began. Following her 6 a.m. surgery, Kolick mustered the strength to watch her Lady Spartans' game at 4 p.m. later that day.
“I went to the game but I don't remember anything,” she recalled with a laugh. “It was obviously a disappointing season during my sophomore year, but not playing didn't hit me until I saw my team play later in the spring. I started throwing easy last November but I was tentative at first. It still makes me nervous to throw, but everything is fine now and there has been no effect batting,” as opposing hurlers have again discovered.
Four home runs, 18 RBI, and a .440 average attest to her successful return for her junior season this year.
“Even though I didn't play last year, I learned more about the game by watching what was happening,” said Kolick, who enjoys listening to country western music as she drives her Chevy Silverado. “I never realized how much softball meant to me until I watched the team play. I'm fine now, but I still have to regain muscle mass to reach full strength and be able to throw like I did before the injury and surgery.”
Having lost in the WPIAL finals last season, Kalp was more than excited about Kolick's return to the lineup.
“Kasey was firing on all cylinders this season until sidelined late in the season,” he said. “In her first game back, she had a single and triple in Hempfield's (first) scrimmage.”
With eight home runs in just under two seasons, Kolick is one round-tripper shy of the school record and Kalp referred to her as one of the two best hitters he has seen in his 17 years at the school. “She still has another high school season to go and there is no doubt she'll be able to play at the next level.”
Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.