For her first three years at Millikin University, Whitney Schafman was more than willing to shoulder the load for the Big Blue softball team.|
"She was our No. 1 pitcher her freshman, sophomore and junior year and No. 3 hitter,'' said MU coach Debbie Kiick of the former Rockridge prep standout who was a key cog in Millikin's regular-season title run last spring.
Then those shoulders gave out on the Millikin senior. Literally.
Last spring, Schafman suffered a left shoulder subluxation in which her shoulder popped out of the socket. Last fall, diving back into a base, her right (pitching arm) shoulder was injured in a similar fashion and required surgery, sidelining her from all off-season work. Then, on the team's spring trip earlier this season, her left shoulder went out again.
"It's been tough, but we have some awesome trainers at Millikin that have helped me get through it,'' said Schafman.
And it's been quite a road this season for the two-time prep All-Area first-team softball selection for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus when she was a two-time unanimous All-Olympic Conference pick.
"Through the first 14 games, we were hitting her and trying to keep getting her at-bats even if she wasn't getting it done,'' said Kiick, who didn't let Schafman pitch or play the field earlier this season. "She was hitting .097 through the first 14 games and has hit over .400 since then.''
In 14 CCIW games, she has a .333 batting average and .542 slugging percentage. For the season, she is batting .275, but leads the team with 25 RBIs batting from the No. 2 spot in the order.
She showed on Monday in a sweep of the hosting Augustana Vikings her versatile value to the Big Blue. In the opener, she went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs on a two-run homer. In the nightcap, she came on in relief in the circle, earning the pitching victory that moved her record to 4-6. Those wins earned the Big Blue (22-16) a spot in this weekend's CCIW Tournament.
Schafman's numbers may not look terrific, but they don't tell the entire story of her battles, either.
"The left shoulder has been stressful because it comes out when I hit,'' said Schafman, who wears a brace on her left shoulder when she plays. "But we got that taken care of and I will have to have surgery on that after I graduate.''
Also after she graduates with a psychology degree, she will take some time to formulate her future plans. She is contemplating graduate school to either advance her psychology studies or to study "play therapy'' that she said is designed to help youngsters "build relationships with their parents and family members,'' Schafman said with a smile. "Yeah, I just want to keep playing.''
Through her first three years of collegiate softball play, Schafman built quite a resume. She was tearing it up on the field when she wasn't tearing up her shoulders. As a sophomore, she earned 2nd-team All-CCIW honors as a pitcher. Last year, she was a first-team pick as a designated player.
"She's a great kid who works so hard and would do anything to help us win – whatever it took,'' said Kiick. "I'm so proud of her. She's had to be a warrior to get where she is.''
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