Pitcher aids in no-hitter despite injury setback

AJ Taylor

Five days before the start of Pacific Coast Softball Conference competition, and 12 days before she combined for a no-hitter against Saint Mary’s, junior pitcher Shelby Voelz was struck by oncoming traffic while driving to school.

On March 14, while pulling away from La Riviera Street on her way to class, Voelz was T-boned on the driver’s side of her car. She suffered a concussion and a strained neck, and was sidelined from any kind of strenuous physical activity for three weeks.

“I had no time to react,” Voelz said. “All I heard was a horn and I turned real quick and that’s when the car hit me.”

The accident set Voelz back much more than just three weeks, though. Voelz was not allowed to run or even jog, and, most detrimentally, she was barred from throwing.

For a pitcher, missing three weeks is going to have some ill effects, namely on accuracy and endurance. Her coach said those two were of Voelz’s best qualities. In 2010, Voelz went the distance 20 times in 23 starts she led the team. In her freshman year, Voelz was second on the team in complete games with seven.

“To try to get her reps in and get that feel back, get back into shape, has been really challenging for her,” said head coach Kathy Strahan. “I really can’t expect her to be in midseason form in time but she’s going to give it all she’s got.”

And Voelz has been. She can be found at the Well working out before and after every practice.

“Going out there I get tired a little bit easier, and my accuracy isn’t where I want to be right now but I’m working hard to get it back,” Voelz said. “I go to the Well before and after practice, just trying to get my conditioning back up to where it was before (the accident).”

Before her accident, Voelz was of the top pitchers on her team. In 2010, opponents batted .256 against her – the lowest opponent batting average on the team. In that same year Voelz notched the second-lowest ERA as well (2.98). Every year though, Voelz trails senior pitcher Megan Schaefer, who combined with Voelz to throw the no-hitter.

All the work she has put in has not been enough to get her to the level she was at before the accident.

“I think the thing that we need to see in order for her to really get back in midseason form is for her to be able to go seven innings or six innings,” Strahan said. “It’s that endurance factor that she’s missing, because when you can’t condition or work out, I wouldn’t expect for it to be there.”

Teammates, coaches and opponents alike have learned to fear Voelz’s specific skill set.

“When she’s on and she’s out there she’s really hard to get a hold of,” Strahan said. “She mixes speeds so well. She’s got one of the best change-ups I’ve ever seen. You can know it’s coming and it’s still really hard to hit. When she’s hitting her spots and mixing it up and throwing that change-up in there just to keep hitters off balance she can do a really good job up there.”

The only thing Voelz certainly did lose because of the accident is innings. Voelz finished with the second most innings pitched in 2009 with 85 and the most innings pitched with 164 in 2010. This season,

Voelz totals 39 innings pitched with eight games remaining in the regular season.

“Our offense thrives off of our pitching and our defense thrives off of it,” Voelz said. “I think that if our pitching staff can hold it down in this stretch we can win the rest of our ball games.”

Her coach agrees.

“Pitching, to me, that’s the name of the game,” Strahan said.

Voelz said she wants a shot at the playoffs this year. But after everything that has happened she is just happy to be alive.

“I’m taking it one day at time and I’m thankful that I’m even here to play a game,” Voelz said.


You can reach AJ Taylor at [email protected]