Softball star pitched through ovarian cancer, returned to lead squad

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

You will have to forgive Copper Hills (Utah) High pitcher Shelby Abeyta if she has a general lack of patience for those who aren't willing to play through pain. In 2010, the now-senior played with more than just garden variety injuries: She played with a tumor from ovarian cancer that was nearly the size of a football.

Copper Hills softball pitcher Shelby Abeyta
Copper Hills softball pitcher Shelby Abeyta

Yet, despite near constant stomach cramps, frequent trips to the doctor and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, the junior didn't just root her team on, she remained a major contributor. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, after the pitcher's doctors told her coach their patient could keep playing softball, there was little question she would play a big part in Copper Hills' season.

"We got a note from Shelby's doctor that said it was OK for her to play," Copper Hills coach Shane Lucas told the Tribune. "She wasn't as effective last year but her love for life and her passion for softball helped lift her up and get her through some tough times."

Now, just more than 12 months after her initial diagnosis, Abeyta is back close to full strength, leading Copper Hills on the mound after a rigorous summer and winter of rehab work, aimed at restoring the pitcher's stamina. Through nine games, Copper Hills racked up a 7-2 record, with five of those wins credited to Abeyta.

"I had a few setbacks along the way," Abeyta told the Tribune about her strenuous recovery. "I was pitching with my dad and I kicked a can of water over because I just couldn't get my old speed back and was stuck at 55 miles per hour."

Whether or not Abeyta ever regains the 62 mph heater that made her a virtually un-hittable pitcher in 2009 remains to be seen, but her dedication to the sport and her team made her an easy sell to colleges around the area, with Snow College the eventual recipient of her commitment and signature.
There's no question about the type of player the Snow Badgers will be getting next year, though Abeyta says she has plenty of goals left to achieve at the high school level first, with Copper Hills aiming at another regional title and state tournament berth.

Lucas, for one, is confident that Abeyta will get the team there.

"She is still not as strong as she was before but the girls feel comfortable when she's on the mound and know that she will take care of us," Lucas told the Tribune.

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