Emily Cochran battles through back issues to help Mount Aloysius softball to postseason
Back pain plagued Emily Cochran during her high school softball career — badly enough that she considered giving up the sport.
She kept plugging away through multiple procedures, through various treatments and along the way rediscovered her love for the game. And now the former Highlands standout is finding happiness in the sport at the collegiate level.
Cochran, a freshman at Mount Aloysius, led the Mounties (29-8) to the second seed of this weekend’s Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference tournament with her pitching and hitting.
“The year’s gone really well,” Cochran said. “Our team really clicks, and the talent we have is a huge part to why we’ve had such a successful season. It’s been nice for me because the upperclassmen and even the freshmen that I came in with really took me under my wing and made it more comfortable and easier to adjust to playing college ball.”
It’s an experience Cochran didn’t expect just a few years ago.
She injured her back in her early days of high school, but she and her family didn’t know the exact nature of the injury until after multiple procedures, injections and numerous other treatments.
Cochran said she was getting constant treatments like acupuncture, “cupping,” chiropractic care and physical therapy.
The pain during high school also restricted her from playing in a prestigious national tournament with her travel team, Pittsburgh Nitro. She eventually joined the Pittsburgh Predators.
“I was doing a lot of that behind the scenes of high school ball and even offseason, and I tried to keep that to a minimum because I wanted to still work hard and earn it myself without people pitying me or showing me sympathy or something like that,” she said. “I don’t want people thinking things are just given to me when I work hard and earn everything that I do on the field.
“My back did play a role. It definitely had me down and had me to a point where I didn’t want to play softball anymore because I didn’t want to deal with the pain, but I’ve gotten my back under control and I try to stay positive, which I think helps a lot.”
Cochran said she has degenerative disc disease, with two ruptured discs in her lumbar area and nerve damage. She uses physical therapy, heat baths and heating pads to keep the pain under control.
After receiving Division I interest before the back problems cropped up, Cochran ended up at Mount Aloysius thanks to a strong relationship with coach Carl Teeter and assistant Jeff Bicko. She said they showed immediate interest when she posted a highlight video.
Teeter died in November 2017, with Bicko stepping in as coach, and Cochran stuck with her commitment to the program.
“They made me feel like I would be comfortable at a school like this, knowing that if there was something I could talk to them about it if it was something with my back,” she said. “Or when it just came to just something on my mind with softball.”
Cochran didn’t know what to expect for a role in her first season on campus. She slotted into the middle of Mount Aloysius’ batting order, ranking third on the team with a .378 batting average, with 13 RBIs. She has an 8-1 record in the pitching circle with a 2.20 ERA.
“My expectations for Emily were for her to prove to me that she could be a No. 1 or 2 starter in the pitching rotation for the future,” Bicko said. “She has already proven that in her freshman year.
“I knew watching her over the last two summers that she would contribute to the team, but what she has done in her freshman year is remarkable.”
Finally comfortable on the diamond again, Cochran is hoping to lead Mount Aloysius win its second straight AMCC title. The tournament began Friday at Penn State Behrend.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Cochran said. “I haven’t experienced it yet, so I’m nervous and anxious because it would be huge to win back-to-back championships. But I do think we can.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, [email protected] or via Twitter .