Pequot Lakes junior Kayla Miller waited two seasons for a chance to take over this spring as the starting shortstop for the Patriots’ softball team.
And Miller was taking advantage of the opportunity with an admirable season at the plate and in the field. Everything was going great, and she was looking forward to the playoffs as the Patriots were the West Subsection 6AA top seed.
But her softball season suddenly came to an end on May 18. That’s when the 17-year-old Miller suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament and meniscus damage in her right knee during an off-season basketball tournament in Bloomington playing with the Minnesota Fury Elite team.
“I still can’t believe it,” Miller said of the injury. “I’ve done the move a thousand times. I pull up to shoot, and I twisted funny (to avoid a defender). It felt weird when I pushed off, and I fell on my back when I landed. I could tell it was serious when I tried to walk.”
It was the first serious injury for the three-sport athlete, who supported her softball teammates from the dugout as they won the first section title in team history on May 30. She recently had a brace removed and is meeting with doctors about the surgical process.
“I’ve never missed a game or practice because of an injury,” she explained. “I felt so bad. One of the first people I called was (Pequot Lakes softball coach Bret Sergent). I was in tears, but he was understanding. He knows how active I am, and he knows that I want to play basketball in college.”
“I really feel like I let them down,” Miller said of her softball teammates. “One of the first things I thought about was softball. But this summer was also my opportunity to find a college, and I needed to play well in (summer) basketball.”
Sergent was understanding about the accident.
“Kayla felt bad, but I felt bad for her,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing to happen to a kid. We’ll deal with it as a team, you just worry that Kayla is getting better.”
So instead of being a vocal leader at shortstop for the Patriots, Miller can only be a cheerleader from the dugout. She also helps her replacement at shortstop – freshman Haley Wiebolt.
“I just try to talk with (Haley),” Miller said. “We talk about where to go with the ball (in the field). Usually, we talk after games.”
“It’s great to have Kayla working with Haley,” Sergent said. “Kayla is still a big part of our team, but we miss her on the field. You take a No. 3 hitter with great speed out of our lineup. She’s also a leader and is very competitive.”
The Patriots do miss having Miller in the lineup, but her teammates showed their depth by pounding out 18 hits in a 13-3 victory over Milaca on Tuesday, May 28, to advanced into the Section 6A final against Staples-Motley.
Miller hopes to return next season to play sports at Pequot Lakes.
“I hope to start shooting hoops in six weeks,” she said about the recovery schedule after surgery. “Each surgeon is different, but it looks like the recovery time is between four and five months.”