Before last season’s Class 4A softball tournament, Halley Jones was experiencing arm pain like never before.
After the Spring Lake Park pitcher told her coach, Lori Lightbody, she might not be able to throw in the state tournament, Jones started the team’s quarterfinal game against Hopkins. She agreed to let her coach know when the pain became too severe.
Jones threw 14 innings, never looking at Lightbody to get pulled.
“She just kept pushing through,” teammate Jasz Rickenbach said. “Her arm hurt, but she kept going. It didn’t stop her, that’s for sure.”
After the season, the source of Jones’ pain was discovered to be a blood clot in her right arm. The news came as a shock to her and her teammates, who watched her pitch through pain all season.
Jones still planned a summer season with her travel team, so she went on blood thinners and was in the hospital for a week. After that second season ended, she had surgery in mid-August to remove her top rib.
Jones pitched in two state tournament games, with Spring Lake Park losing by one run each time. Jones said she knew her pain wasn’t only from throwing too much.
“I pitched in state with my arm being doubled in size. My jersey was not able to fit my right arm,” Jones said. “It was really painful.”
Only a week after her surgery, Jones went on an official visit to the University of Nebraska Omaha, where she later committed to play next year.
Jones is now focused on gaining pitch speed after surgery. She didn’t have to go through physical therapy, but the lost time meant she wasn’t able to go through offseason training trying to improve her velocity.
She said she knew she would be able to come back strong. She pitched well with a blood clot, she reasoned, so she was enthusiastic about pitching without one.
“I was excited more than I was scared,” Jones said. “I just wanted to go out there and pitch again because it had been so long since I felt comfortable pitching because my arm was in so much pain.”
With her top rib gone, Jones is back to excelling. On April 7, she recorded her 700th career strikeout with Spring Lake Park.
“She hopped right back on. She was ready to go in the first game,” Rickenbach said. “She was in pain the whole [last] season, so I think she’s better. I think she’s stronger as a person because of what she went through.”
This year Jones is a team captain for the first time, along with Rickenbach. Lightbody said it’s a role for which Jones is well-prepared. She has played softball with many of the top players Spring Lake Park will face, Lightbody said, so she often can tell her teammates what to expect when they’re batting against an opposing pitcher Jones already knows.
“She has that leadership quality in her,” Lightbody said. “She’s very knowledgeable with softball and the girls listen to her because she can give encouragement and words of advice.”
Mike Hendrickson is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.