Filling in: Terry moves behind plate for injured teammate

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, April 13, 2019
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Lending a Hand

LENDING A HAND – Paradise’s Maddi Terry (left) has switched positions from second base to catcher, taking over for Christina Tipton (right). Tipton tore her ACL in a game last month and will miss the remainder of the season. Messenger photo by Reece Waddell

Catcher is not Maddi Terry’s natural position.

The Paradise senior has spent the majority of her high school career at second base, turning double plays in the middle infield. But her responsibilities completely changed last month.

During a routine play against Boyd March 12, the Lady Panthers’ starting catcher, Christina Tipton, injured her knee running out a ground ball. In a split second, the dynamic of Paradise’s team shifted dramatically.

“When I saw [Tipton] on the ground [after she got hurt], I figured I was going to be behind the plate for the rest of the season,” Terry said.

Tipton had to be carried off the field, unable to put weight on her right leg.

The senior had spent the previous eight months recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in her left knee. She said the pain she experienced was all too familiar.

“I heard the pop and remember falling over first base,” Tipton said. “As I was being carried off the field, it felt exactly like it. Except this one felt 10 times worse.”

Tipton had an MRI the same day. Test results revealed her biggest fear.

Just two months removed from being cleared to play after her first ACL tear, Tipton had torn the ACL in her right knee. She also tore her lateral collateral ligament (LCL), meniscus, and severely strained her medial collateral ligament (MCL).

Her season – and high school softball career – was over.

“It was very emotional,” Tipton said. “When I heard the news I was at home. I just remember I was about to walk out the front door and the phone rang. My mom got it, she looked at me, shook her head and looked down.”

With their starting catcher sidelined, the Lady Panthers turned to Terry to fill the void. The Ouachita Baptist commit had caught before, but mainly in scrimmages and practice.

Paradise coach Karin Essig needed her to move behind the plate in the middle of District 7-3A play.

“Maddi is a competitor,” Essig said. “I think we’re blessed and lucky to have a kid that is going to go to college and play ball and knows the game well enough to make that move.”

Terry quickly realized how difficult the position was.

“I have to know where to throw the ball and when to throw the ball,” Terry said. “I have to know the situation even more than I did. There’s a lot more pressure. I know if a ball goes past me and a run scores, it’s my fault.”

Fortunately, Terry’s teammate is not far away to offer guidance.

Tipton is in the dugout during games and has taken Terry under her wing. Tipton was 2018 8-3A first-team selection and the Wise County Defensive Player of the Year. She had a 0.974 fielding percentage last year.

“Every time I come in from an inning, Christina will give me a tip,” Terry said. “She’ll tell me to be a wall, or something like that. I take everything she says to heart and I think about it when I’m back there.”

Since Tipton’s injury, Paradise is 7-2 in league play. The Lady Panthers have already clinched a playoff berth and are in third place in 7-3A at 8-3 with two games remaining.

“I think it’s a testament to the character of the kids,” Essig said. “We have a group of leaders who have played softball for a long time. We just had to have the resolve enough to not let it go against us. No matter how much you want Christina to be playing, you have to believe in what you have.”

As much as she wants to be on the field, Tipton is grateful to have a friend take over her position and play well. Terry has maintained her spot at the top of Paradise’s order, batting .459 with 28 RBIs and four home runs.

“I’m so proud of Maddi,” Tipton said. “How far she’s come and what she has been through – watching her do something that I absolutely love. The position she plays is different, but I know I can trust her to make the right decisions. She can play any spot you put her in. I love her for it.”

Tipton had surgery to repair her ACL March 28. Doctors took a patellar tendon graft to reconstruct the ligament.

She will spend the next seven to eight months rehabbing, going to physical therapy three times a week. Tipton said her latest injury derailed any hopes she had of playing college softball.

For the second time in less than a year, Tipton sports a bulky knee brace and crutches. But Thursday, she was one of the first Lady Panthers on the field for practice.

It’s no secret what she means to the team.

“She’s the glue that holds us all together,” Terry said. “We make fun of her because she’s kind of the team mom and keeps us all in line. She yells at us when we need to be yelled at. That’s part of being a team and being a sisterhood. She means the world to us.”

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