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Season of obstacles couldn't distract Northwood pitcher

With the Northwood softball team's conference opener against Cameron looming on the horizon, Teagen Harings should have been thinking about the pitches she'd throw to shut down the Comets.

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Northwood's Teagen Harings is the 2011 Superior Telegram softball player of the year. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

With the Northwood softball team's conference opener against Cameron looming on the horizon, Teagen Harings should have been thinking about the pitches she'd throw to shut down the Comets.

Instead she found herself sitting in an emergency room, anxiously awaiting a diagnosis.

"I think I cried that day more than I have any day," Harings said. "I was so scared."

The Northwood junior landed in the emergency room after injuring her pinky during gym class. School officials insisted she get medical clearance before she'd be allowed to play for the Evergreens, so Harings went to see a physical therapist.

"He told me that he thought it was a boxer's fracture, and that he couldn't give me the OK to play," Harings said.

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At that point, Harings began to panic. It was early April, and if she did have a boxer's fracture, she'd be out for eight weeks.

By the time she got her cast off, the season would be over.

"I couldn't even imagine not playing," Harings said.

In a last-ditch effort to save her season, Harings went to the hospital for a second opinion. She wouldn't be 100 percent for the game, she was told, but the doctor gave her the OK to play.

"That was kind of our scare of the year," Harings said. "Before it even started, it almost ended."

It turned out to be quite a season for Harings and the Evergreens, who advanced to the sectional finals for the first time in a decade. Harings pitched every game for Northwood and anchored the team's offense as leadoff batter.

"Quite honestly, without Teagen, we couldn't have played," said Beth Block, Evergreens head coach. "She pitched every game and did a great job."

Harings ended the regular season with a 13-5 pitching record and a 2.9 ERA. She struck out 92 batters in 116 innings pitched, giving up just 22 walks over that span.

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At the plate, Harings led the Evergreens in runs scored (30), total hits (33), stolen bases (13), batting average (.516), on-base percentage (.581) and slugging percentage (.688). She was named to the 2011 Central Lakeland Conference all-conference team.

"Besides her strength as a pitcher, she is equally as talented as a batter," Block said. "She is a very poised and confident player."

Harings struck out just three times this year in 64 at bats. She had four triples -- the most on the team -- and three doubles while managing 12 RBIs from the leadoff position.

"I was the leadoff batter, and your job as leadoff batter is to get on base any way you can," Harings said. "You just have to get that mentality that you're going to get on base no matter what."

The junior puts in hours of her own time at home to work on both her pitching and her hitting, using a Hit-A-Way training device to perfect her timing and swing.

"The first Hit-A-Way we got was 'indestructible;' if we broke it we'd get a free one," said Tim Harings, Teagen's father. "Well, the guy told me I was the first ones to bring one back. That's how many times that thing was hit."

Tim Harings has also had the unenviable job of playing catcher for all three of his daughters: Tressa (a 2010 grad who pitched for Northwood last season), Teagen and upcoming pitcher TeLaura.

"I've had a few busted blood vessels," Tim Harings said. "I just got one the other day from my youngest and my arm swelled up like a softball.

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"My wife (Terri) quit catching two years ago when she finally said, 'OK, that's too fast for me.'"

Tim Harings has suffered many bruises and contusions since then, but he said he doesn't regret a moment.

"My dad has been to every single game, he has brought us to every single camp and he's spent numerous hours catching for us," Teagen said. "I've had that support all season. I don't think I can thank the fans enough either because everybody was so incredible."

Teagen Harings was especially thankful for her support network when the Evergreens began their playoff run.

Throughout the tournament, Northwood faced a string of unexpected challenges.

It began when catcher Lisa Featherly injured her leg in practice. The junior was devastated to learn she'd broken a bone and would be unable to play. Featherly had been second on the team in most offensive categories and was the only truly experienced catcher on the roster.

For Harings, that meant she'd have to pitch without the luxury of a good friend and long-time teammate behind the plate. She and Featherly had played together as pitcher and catcher since the 12U level.

"We read each other so well. All I had to do was nod my head or shake her off, and she knew what pitch I should throw," Harings said. "I had an amazing catcher all season long."

Harings had two regional games to adjust to her new catcher.

Then came the next obstacle -- a heat wave that sent temperatures soaring to 100 degrees for the Evergreens' sectional semifinal game in Shell Lake.

The Evergreens, dressed in their all black uniforms, labored in the intense heat. One player became ill and another was benched due to hyperventilation.

Harings, who pitched and reached base almost every at bat, was pushed to her limits.

"I was drenched after the game because people were just wringing water over me and pouring water bottles over my head," Harings said. "That was a game that we really had to pull ourselves together to win."

Northwood then ended its season one win away from state, falling to McDonell Central in the sectional finals.

"I would have given anything to go to state, but the fact that we made it as far as we did, with going through so much, it was an amazing experience," Harings said.

Still, Harings is not totally satisfied with Northwood's near miss this season.

In her senior year, she hopes for a better streak of luck -- and at least seven more innings of play after the sectional finals.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTYSOFTBALL
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