Bill Plummer III

Chelsea Kelley overcomes injury to complete four-year career and win softball award

by Bill Plummer III June 06, 2011 in Softball

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When the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner was announced, no one was more surprised than the winner – Radford University pitcher Chelsea Kelley.

“At first I was kind of in shock,” Kelley said. “I had already been excited just to be a finalist. The thought that I had won…I didn’t even know what to say. At first I thought he (head coach Mickey Dean) was kidding with me and joking around, but no he wasn’t. I was very excited and the four years of hard work – I feel like it was worth something at the end.”

Dean, who told Kelley she had won the award said, “I am so honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to coach Chelsea over the past four years. To see a kid go through so many challenges throughout her career and to see her handle each obstacle with such dignity is a true statement to her character. One of the more astonishing things is for this young lady to win the fan vote against such great odds. I believe that shows the incredible impact she had on the people she had come in contact with.”

A sports medicine major with a 3.94 GPA, Kelley is the fifth senior to be named winner of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Previous winners were: Caitlin Lowe, Arizona, 2007; Angela Tincher, Virginia Tech, 2008; Stacey Nelson, Florida, 2009, and Charlotte Morgan, Alabama, 2010.

A native of Roanoke, Va., Kelley was named Virginia AA State Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007 before entering Radford in the fall of 2008 and looking forward to contributing to the Highlanders’ softball program. Coming into her freshman year, however, she had just had work done on a tendon in her ankle.

“I came in with that injury and was rehabbing it. Then, because of that injury, I ended up having a nerve complax, so I had to have my nerve reconstructed. I pretty much missed all of my fall season of my freshman year. I didn’t get to travel in the spring and really didn’t play very much my freshman year due to that injury. I spent time rehabbing and retraining my foot how to move because I lost all control of my foot.”

In her freshman year, Chelsea made seven appearances pitching 11 innings and compiling a 2-0 record with four strikeouts. She had a break-out season in 2009, her
sophomore year. Appearing in 47 of the team’s 56 games, she compiled a 25-8 record and was named Big South Conference Pitcher of the Year. She ranked 27th in the NCAA in wins and ninth in saves.

Then, she suffered another injury in the pre-season of her junior year, tearing her labrum in her shoulder.

“I got it checked out, got an x-ray done and it was torn, “Kelley said. “At the time we had only three pitchers, so I sat down with my coaches and we talked about it. They told me I could either try to play the season with it or just go ahead and have the surgery done and call it a year. I decided that with their help that I would rather play the season with my arm torn and just get it fixed once the season ended. So I played all of my junior year with my shoulder torn and then got it fixed a week after we lost in the regionals. So I had that repaired in June of last year. Then I rehabbed it in the fall of my senior year and then didn’t get to start throwing until almost December and the season started in February.”

Despite the injury, Kelley compiled a 25-9 record and earned first-team all-conference and Big South All-Academic honors. She appeared in 44 of the team’s 55 games and ranked 28th in the NCAA in wins. For the second year in a row, she led the conference in wins (league and overall).

After having the surgery, Kelly continued to rehab and was looking forward to her senior year. She was hoping of course, it would be one free of injuries. Unfortunately,  it wasn’t.
Right before the season started, however, she suffered another injury.

“We were doing a rundown drill and I fell down and actually separated my AC joint and possibly did damage to my (left) shoulder, which is why we didn’t have an MRI done because I didn’t want to get shut down,” Kelley said.

Chelsea pitched her senior year and despite compiling a losing record (6-8) she was named to the Big South Conference all-tournament team. She had an MRI after the season was over, and helped lead the Highlanders to their third consecutive regular-season title before being upset in the conference tournament by Liberty, 3-1.

“It was definitely not what I wanted to see, “ said Kelley about her senior year. “Going into it I was told that I might not even get to play this year. My surgery was a 12-month recovery and I was determined to do it in eight. So just to play I was very excited about having success my last two years.”