The only consolation Diane Klapatch had while coping with an injury during the 2011 softball season was that she had one year left in her high school career.
She battled through the back injury during her junior year by helping the team as a designated hitter. Despite being one of Pleasant Valley's top hitters, she spent the entire season yearning to get back on the pitchers mound.
After working hard to get back to full strength, Klapatch returned to the hill this year as part of a three-pitcher rotation. She was the team's best hitter and part of a trio on the mound that led the Lady Bears to another Mountain Valley Conference title.
"I feel pretty satisfied with this season," said Klapatch. "I think it was a good senior year for me and I'm really proud of my accomplishments."
Klapatch played first base this season and batted a team-high .425. She also led the team in hits (34) and home runs (6). She knocked in 28 runs and belted eight doubles.
As much as she enjoyed being an offensive catalyst this year, she was just as happy to be back on the mound.
She didn't mind being part of a three-pitcher rotation and getting the ball once every three games. Hayli Marini and Rikki Correll both pitched for Pleasant Valley in 2011. Adding Klapatch to that rotation made the staff even stronger.
"I think it worked out really well," Klapatch said. "All three of us had different strengths. It allowed each of us to have a break and to match up against certain teams.
"Our coach matched us up against teams that he thought we would do the best against. I think it was really an advantage for us to have three really good pitchers instead of one."
Klapatch pitched in seven games this year, going 5-1. Her best performance might have been a two-hit shutout win over Allen on April 28. She struck out 12 Chicks in the game.
The senior was happy to be pitching after spending the defensive half of innings on the bench last year.
"It was tough to see other girls get the chance to pitch and I wasn't," Klapatch said of her junior year. "I was pretty disappointed about it. I still wanted to pitch so I really worked hard over the summer to get back to where I was for my senior year."
The injury limited her summer season, but by this spring she was ready to go. She went 4-0 against Mountain Valley Conference opponents this year, keeping batters guessing with her vast array of pitches.
"I throw six different pitches," she said. "I try to get the most spin I can and keep the batters off balance. I like all my pitches. I really like the screw ball. And the curve I use a lot too.
"My weakness is probably throwing all the pitches for strikes. My change up isn't as good as I'd like it to be."
Klapatch credits her pitching coach for helping her become the pitcher she has been this season. Former Lady Bears hurler and current assistant coach Stacy Frantz has worked with Klapatch since middle school.
"She was my pitching coach since I was in sixth grade," Klapatch said. "She was a big influence on me. She was a good role model. I really looked up to her a lot. She really taught me everything I know about pitching."
As good as she was on the diamond, Klapatch performed even better where it counts most in the classroom. Ranked 13th in a class of 435, she has a high-90s GPA and is headed to Shippensburg University where she will enroll in the honors program for accounting majors.
She will always remember her senior season, not only because she earned a spot on the mound and put up stellar offensive numbers, but also for the team's performance.
Pleasant Valley went 17-6 this season and won its eighth straight MVC title. Despite a 2-1 loss to Northampton in the first round of districts, Klapatch looks back on the Lady Bears' season as a successful one.
"I think we had a good season," she said. "We accomplished our goal of winning MVCs. We wish we would have gone farther in districts. It was a really heartbreaking loss for us, but overall I think it was a good season."
Klapatch isn't sure about trying to walk on at Shippensburg. This year might have been the last of her softball career. While she'll surely miss the game she's played for the past 10 years, she can take pride in knowing her senior-season performance was as good as anyone in the area. And good enough to earn her this year's TIMES NEWS Softball Player of the Year.