OLD TOWN, Maine — It can be easy for athletes to let adversity, such as injury, derail their drive to succeed.
Not Old Town pitcher Hannah Morin.
The Old Town High School senior righthander hasn’t been blessed with good luck when it comes to staying healthy over the last couple years, as she pitched through a right knee injury her junior season. When the injury got progressively worse over the summer and fall, the likelihood of Morin pitching her senior year seemed bleak.
“I personally would’ve been heartbroken, just because I’ve worked so hard for it,” said Morin, who has been pitching since age 8 and is also one of Eastern Maine Class B’s top hitters.
Morin first discovered she had a problem last spring during the first week of practice, but she battled her way through the season in leading coach Lester Cowan’s club to the regional quarterfinals.
But with all those innings of work behind her, Morin was about to discover that stepping out of the circle for a bit isn’t such a bad idea as she has compiled a 5-1 record this year while helping the Coyotes post a 6-1 start.
The summer of 2009 started out in typical fashion for Morin: She was spending time with friends, enjoying time off from school and pitching for the Maine Tidal Wave, along with some of the area’s other top hurlers in Debbie Colpitts of Hermon, Abby Yeo of Bucksport and Tayla Trask of Mattanawcook Academy.
After the high school season had concluded, Morin and her parents, Kevin and Beth, had gone to numerous doctors and couldn’t find an answer for the injury.
“I’d take ibuprofen before each game, and it didn’t help, and at that point summer ball was about ready to start, so we kind of ignored it and it just got worse and worse,” said Morin.
Morin finally underwent an MRI in October, and it was discovered she had patella tendinitis, and to make matters worse, it was in her right (push-off and dragging) knee, which made pitching difficult last spring and summer.
“Just dragging my foot was a sharp pain right in the left side of my kneecap,” Morin said. “It really almost brought me to tears a few times, because just working it, working it and working it, it never got better, it just got worse.”
Usually, a softball pitcher’s right foot is the one getting most work, besides her throwing arm.
With the pain not going away, Morin and her parents finally came to the conclusion that rest would be the only ticket to pitching her senior season at Old Town.
“In the long run, we all came to the same conclusion that rest would be the best thing,” she said. “In December, we went in and looked for cortisone shots to see if that would help. We had that done, and it didn’t work and that was pretty much our last resort besides rest. I didn’t really want to rest, but at the same time I knew I had to.”
Morin subsequently took three months off from pitching, and while that was quite unusual for her, she knew that throwing her senior year out the window wasn’t an option she wanted to consider.
“There were a lot of nights where my parents and I had these discussions, you know, what if, what if, what if, and it’s not something I’m ready to give up just like that because of a knee,” Morin said.
Three months later…
The winter of 2009-10 was an unseasonably warm one, and many high school softball players were out on snow-free fields playing catch long before pitchers and catchers were due for preseason practices March 21.
Morin wasn’t one of them, but when she reported to practice, her knee felt stronger than ever.
“I’ve had no issues with [it]. Occasionally, if it’s cold out and I’m fielding, I’ll feel it twisting and turning, but other than that, it seems to be fine,” Morin said.
The time off from pitching was a bit unusual for Morin, who would pitch for two hours every Sunday from September until June with Bob Mercer, an assistant coach at Old Town.
“My eighth grade year I started going to Bob Mercer, who is, along with my father, one of the biggest assets to this whole thing, because he’s helped me get through it,” Morin said.
Morin didn’t have to do anything special as far as exercise to help stabilize the knee.
“I’m in a physical education strength and conditioning class. I run and we lift and stuff, so I’m starting to build it up more and more,” she said.
Morin’s senior year has gotten off to a banner start, as her Coyotes sit 6-1 with the regular season nearly halfway complete, and she hasn’t allowed more than five runs in a game.
That’s a start her teammates certainly expected.
“We’ve been playing with Hannah since we were 10. Just growing up with Hannah and being there, she’s always worked through whatever problem she has,” said Old Town senior Amy Cossar, who along with classmates Morin, Amy Singer and Whitney Leland have been playing together since before middle school.
Singer has been Morin’s catcher every time she has delivered a pitch, and she has noticed some considerable changes now that Morin is healthy.
“She’s stronger this year than she was last year because her knee was giving her problems last year,” Singer said. “She seems a lot better control-wise and [with] velocity and everything.”
Morin has pitched in all but one of Old Town’s games this spring.
“This year she came back strong and has started almost every game, pretty much,” Leland said.
Any athlete wants to go out with a bang, and that’s high on Hannah Morin’s list of priorities.
“We made it to the second round last year and the year before that and we want to go much further than that, and we have the team to do that,” Morin said.
For one, Morin doesn’t plan on pitching in college, as she plans to attend Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and break into the medical field.
“I’ve always wanted to play in college, but I knew I wanted to go into the medical field,” she said. “I wanted to give school everything, sports always comes after that. It always has and it always will.”
Morin said it’s possible she’d play recreational-level softball when she’s older, since her love of the game will never cease.
With a healthy knee and a team capable of challenging for a regional and state championship, there are many people who helped Morin persevere.
First off, her teammates.
“Without them, I probably would’ve just given up, because they’re like my family and it’s like you don’t give up on your family, ever,” Morin said.
And her parents and doctors also helped her work through a difficult time.
“I owe a lot of credit to them,” Morin said. “My doctors are there when I need them the most, but my parents [are, too].”
Morin’s softball career won’t end after the Coyotes’ season concludes, as she’ll pitch another season for the Maine Tidal Wave, along with Trask, Yeo and Colpitts, whom Morin just faced on Tuesday.
“We were so close in summer ball, you almost consider them sisters,” Morin said. “When we play against them, it makes us want to beat them that much more.”
Morin has developed tight relationships with those pitchers, and they’ve gone on to have close-knit friendships, even if it means the occasional chat prior to confrontations on the high school diamond.
“We’re goofing off and talking to each other and lot of times, coaches don’t like their players talking to the opposing team,” Morin said, “but its not a big deal for us because we know when we’re in game mode, it’s game time.”
Now, all Morin and her teammates want is that coveted prize that only one team can claim come June, and so far, the Coyotes are on the right path toward attaining that goal.
“We want everything, we want to get as far as we can, because we have the talent, we have the strength to do it,” Cossar said. “There’s no weak spots on our team.”
One of the strongest players — both physically and mentally — stands in the pitcher’s circle.