Softball star gets hit in first at bat after near-fatal accident

Cameron Smith

Of all the comebacks made in recent months, few can be considered more complete than the one put in by Harmony (Fla.) High softball star Breann "Breezy" Vanderzyl. The pitcher and outfielder walked back onto a softball diamond for the first time in three months in late July, and promptly picked up where she left off, lining a single through the infield.

Harmony softball player Breann Vanderzyl
Harmony softball player Breann Vanderzyl

The difference is that this time she came to bat with a metal rod in her leg, the price she pays for a near-deadly traffic accident she was involved in just after a regional quarterfinal victory in late April.

As detailed by the Orlando Sentinel, Vanderzyl said she doesn't remember anything about her performance in Harmony's 11-4 April 27 victory against former Florida Class 4A state champ Dunnellon, with all those memories (and others) wiped out by the trauma resulting from the accident she caused when she failed to yield to another car at a flashing stoplight.

Vanderzyl was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center with a broken leg, broken ribs, broken pelvis, cracked sternum and a severe concussion, while her teammate in the passenger seat -- Harmony baseball pitcher Alex Stevens -- suffered a concussion and bruised sternum.

Needless to say, Vanderzyl missed the rest of Harmony's memorable run to the state championship game (a playoff sojourn that also included the Longhorns competing in their first state playoff game without head coach Ralph King). Because of the severity of her injuries, the larger question was whether she would be able to return to softball at a high level ever again.

Not only did Vanderzyl make it back, she made it back to being a significant part of a competitive travel softball program within three months.

"Knowing what she has been through and then seeing her playing again and seeing her get a hit on her first trip to the plate, it was almost like we were watching a movie," Vinnie Fernandez, the coach of Vanderzyl's Brevard (Fla.) Stealers West softball program. "It was a fairy tale.

"You hear about these injuries, and you almost have to say, 'Wow!' to think that it only has been three months."

For her part, Vanderzyl said she is still getting past the lingering pain that she feels in her left hip and right shoulder. While she says her current condition wavers from day-to-day, she is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2012 softball season, which starts in Florida in February.

That means she won't have to use a designated runner again, like she has as a designated hitter for Stealers West this summer, a prospect that would make the rising senior feel like her recovery is complete.

"I have my days," said Vanderzyl, who batted .303 with nine RBIs and went 8-5 with a 1.81 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 73.2 innings last season at Harmony. "In the beginning, I seemed to be getting better real fast. Now it is small steps, which is tough to take because I want to do everything I used to do." [...]

"[Softball] has been my No. 1 priority," she said. "That is what is motivating me to get better."

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