Freshman second baseman Kayla Drury was figuratively jumping for joy before last week's game against Niagara. Cleared to play without wearing a knee brace for the first time in a year, she might have literally tried to as well.
"Friday had to be one of the best days for me in a very long time," Drury said. "Knowing that I was not going to be wearing the brace had me so excited it was like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, not to mention my leg. I felt much more relaxed."
Drury and the Hatters will return to action this weekend as they host the Stetson Classic at Patricia Wilson Field. Colgate, Fairleigh Dickinson, Valparaiso, and Stetson will compete in a three-day tournament where each team will play five games.
Drury says her injury took place the very first week of tryouts in her senior year of high school, just over one year ago.
"I was running back on a ball and I jumped up to catch it but when I came down, my leg was locked out and I remember hearing the loudest pop come from my right knee," Drury said. "I just fell to the ground."
The injury forced Drury to miss her entire senior season at Taylor High School and most of her summer travel ball season with the Central Florida Sting.
"My first game back was the opening day of the ASA National Tournament that we won in Tennessee this past summer," Drury said. "It was the best feeling in the world to be able to finally play again. (Wearing the brace) definitely took some getting used to, but eventually I was fine with it."
Drury played with the brace in the fall and through the first month of the regular season. She is off to a good start, batting .333 with a pair of doubles while starting all 14 games for the Hatters at second base. She also ranks second on the team with a .462 average with runners on base.
"Kayla has exceeded expectations," head coach Frank Griffin said. "She is playing in a very mature manner and making the adjustment to the college game well. I believe she is only going to get better with more experience. I am very pleased to have her as a part of the team."
Drury is part of a Stetson infield that at times has started three freshmen and a sophomore.
"Most people might think that since we have such a young infield, it could get messy, but we are all in-tune with one another and we communicate well," Drury said. "We work hard everyday and we trust each other to get the job done."
Now that she is playing without a brace, Drury says she may be more comfortable utilizing one of her better assets, her speed. In high school, Drury stole 109 bases without ever getting thrown out.
"I think moving forward without the brace will help with my speed on the bases and in the field," Drury said.
The Hatters, meanwhile, have played well of late, winning seven of their last eight games entering the weekend tournament.
"I think this first month has gone really well for us," Drury said. "We're young, I mean there are six freshman, including me, but we all work great together and we all have each other's backs. It's a great feeling knowing that every single member of this team can pull through for us."
Live video will be avaiable on HatterVision for all five Stetson games this weekend, although no announcer will be present for Friday's games. Live stats, the Stetson Softball twitter feed, and the Hat-Alerts text messaging service are also available for in-game updates.
Valparaiso vs. Fairleigh Dickinson 11:00 am
Colgate vs. Valparaiso 1:30 pm
Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Stetson 4:00 pm
Stetson vs. Colgate 6:30 pm
Colgate vs. Valparaiso 11:00 am
Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Colgate 1:30 pm
Valparaiso vs. Stetson 4:00 pm
Stetson vs. Fairleigh Dickinson 6:30 pm
Non-Stetson Game 10:00 am
Stetson Game Noon