Summerville third baseman Hannah Horton settled under the pop foul, ready to make a routine play. She caught the ball near the fence, but slipped and felt a pop in her right knee.
For the second time in 11 months, Horton suffered a serious knee injury, tearing her ACL. As her teammates helped her off the field in last spring’s Lower State softball game against Carolina Forest, fans and players feared Horton’s career was over.
“But even when I was lying on the ground I knew I would rehab and be back again,” Horton said. “I did it once and there was no reason in my mind that I couldn’t do it again.”
Horton wanted to play softball again. She was a sophomore the night she crumpled to the ground and was much too young to call it quits. But she knew all too well about knee surgery and the long road to recovery.
She was a rising sophomore in the summer of 2011 when she suffered her first major knee injury, tearing the ACL in her left knee during a volleyball workout. She underwent surgery and eight months of rehab in time to return to the softball diamond. But three months later, she was down after chasing down the routine foul pop-up.
“After I had my first knee injury, my doctor told me there was a chance I might injure my other knee,” Horton said. “But that wasn’t going to stop me. I just wanted to play. I needed to play.”
She returned to action Monday night in a 15-4 victory over Goose Creek and had a big night. She collected two hits in three at-bats and also drew a walk.
On Wednesday, she hit a home run in a 9-7 loss to Stratford
Horton’s father, Bradley, said the second rehab was extremely hard on his daughter, and no picnic for everyone else in the family, either.
“Over the months she became angry and despondent toward everyone she encountered, even those of us who were trying to support her. Two summers parenting a teenager who had no ability to drive, go to the beach or otherwise enjoy the things her friends were doing was at times trying, but her mother (Tracie) and I attempted to keep it in perspective.
“After some discussions about how blessed she truly was and how others were much less fortunate than she was, her attitude improved and she became more determined than ever to do whatever she had to in order to play again.”
But it took more than a pep talk for Horton to return to the field in time for her junior season. The two knee injuries took more than 1,000 hours of physical therapy and 150 doctor appointments. Her doctor cleared her just a week before tryouts this year.
“Hannah has shown great determination in dealing with both of her knee injuries,” Summerville coach Heather Tucker said. “She is the kind of person who sets goals for herself and is going to accomplish those goals no matter what happens.”
Horton showed immense potential before even attending Summerville High. She was the first eighth-grader to earn a varsity letter in volleyball at Summerville and was the starting shortstop on the junior varsity softball team. She was promoted to the varsity softball squad for the playoffs as the Green Wave advanced to the state championship series for the first time in school history.
As a freshman, she was the starting libero on the varsity volleyball team and a starting outfielder on the varsity softball team that won the Region 8-AAAA championship.
While her athletic career has been up and down because of injuries, she hasn’t wavered in the classroom. Horton is ranked No. 15 academically in her class of more than 650 students.
While she can’t be sure what her athletic future holds, Horton already has decided on a career path.
I want to go into physical therapy,” she said. “I’ve been there, done that. I know what it’s about. I want to help someone who has been in my situation.”