By Tyler Brown
It is nearly impossible to imagine a productive Lady Mocs lineup without power-hitting senior Michelle Fuzzard penciled into the third spot in the order.
Fuzzard earned SoCon First-Team honors after leading the Lady Mocs with a .356 batting average her freshman year and helped lead the Lady Mocs to their first SoCon Tournament title since the 2004 season.
Skipping the sophomore slump in 2009, Fuzzard was named to the SoCon First-Team for a second-straight year, but the Huntington Beach, Calif., native’s journey took a nasty “twist” just three weekends into her junior year.
It seemed as though nothing could stop the rising star, but an awkward stretch at first base during a routine putout at the South Florida Under Armour Invitational sent the junior’s season crashing down.
“I stretched out for the ball and it took a tail to the right side,” Fuzzard recalled. “My leg stayed to the left and the rest of my body fell to the right. It was a pretty violent twist.”
Fuzzard said she immediately knew something was wrong as she fell. As the play continued, Fuzzard grasped at her injured leg with tears rolling down her face as she lay on the ground in anguish.
“My initial thought was some sort of sprain,” Fuzzard said. “I kept thinking I was fine, but I would have to sit out the rest of the game.”
Doctors told the infielder, otherwise, the next day that she was diagnosed with a torn ACL, ending the season for Fuzzard.
Luckily, the injury came in the 15th contest, just one game shy of 30 percent of the season, allowing the junior to use her medical redshirt.
“I was devastated,” Fuzzard said. “I didn’t know what that meant for my future. I didn’t know how my play would be affected with a brace on my knee. My family and coaches helped me make the decision to go ahead and have surgery.”
Fuzzard went under the knife and rehab began, but two worries lingered in the star’s mind before taking her first steps after surgery.
“I have played with girls who have torn their ACL, and I have seen the rigorous physical therapy necessary to come back from the injury,” Fuzzard said. “And I was obviously scared of the possibility of reinjuring it.”
The Lady Mocs went on to finish first in the conference that year, but without the veteran’s presence in the lineup, Chattanooga suffered back-to-back losses in the conference tournament and was eliminated from play at its own Frost Stadium.
After spending the rest of the 2010 season in the dugout, Fuzzard made her first steps towards a comeback the following fall.
Seeing no action in the circle, Fuzzard had to first find her footing in the batter’s box.
“I wasn’t sure how those first fall games were going to go,” Fuzzard said. “I didn’t know if I could trust my knee, but it turned out to be alright. I was doing just fine hitting, so I definitely considered that fall season a success.”
Fuzzard went on to hit .400 in 2011 as the Lady Mocs led the nation in batting average at .351, splitting time as a pitcher and designated player.
The junior clocked 14 homeruns and set the SoCon and school single-season RBI record, driving in 75 during her SoCon Player of the Year campaign.
“I didn’t realize what I had in me until going through the injury,” Fuzzard said. “Climbing back through the rehab, finding confidence in myself and seeing how far I could push myself showed me how strong I am. It made me grow up a lot, and I don’t want to say it was a good thing, but it definitely showed me a lot about myself as a person and player.”
With the SoCon career-RBI record under her belt, Fuzzard is in line to break both the Chattanooga career doubles and total bases marks before the close of the season.