CENTERTON — A basketball injury caused Emma Wood to realize how much more she loves playing softball now than she did then.
Wood, now a senior pitcher/ outfielder at Bentonville West, suffered the injury during a midseason practice session while she was still a freshman. She tore all three major ligaments and her meniscus and — while she was only out for four months — it still caused her to miss her entire first year of high school softball.
“It made me realize how much I love softball,” Wood said. “It was awful to sit down and not play, and you’re having to watch your teammates play. It made me realize how much I appreciate the game way more.”
Wood did return to basketball as a sophomore and played a good portion during West’s inaugural season, then quickly made the transition to softball and helped the Lady Wolverines earn a trip to the state tournament in their first year. It was during that time that she realized she wanted to continue playing softball beyond high school.
So Wood elected to step away from basketball and solely concentrate on softball, even though she admitted the decision was a tough one.
“I do miss basketball,” Wood said. “I loved basketball, and it was so much fun. I miss the girls and the coaches, but I definitely think it was the right choice to focus on softball.”
Wood immediately reaped the benefits of turning her attention solely to softball. During her sophomore season, she shared the pitching duties with other players, but coach Anthony Cantrell let her become the Lady Wolverines’ main person in the circle last spring.
Wood responded with a 22-7 record last year and helped West reach the Class 7A state championship game. She allowed just 127 hits and 36 earned runs over 124 2/3 innings for an ERA under 2, and she struck out 124 batters while issuing just 24 walks.
“She carried the load for us last year and did a phenomenal job doing that,” Cantrell said. “She embellished that role. She wanted to do that, and that was her thing. We could have done some other stuff, but we didn’t, and Emma did a great job for us. She’s got guts that a lot of kids don’t have.
“She can go out and throw a two-hit shutout or get beat 10-0, and you won’t know the difference. I had some kids in North Little Rock that were like that where you couldn’t tell if they’re being successful or getting ripped. That’s the thing you have to have in the circle: a kid who has the poise when she’s good and be good even when she’s not being good.”
Wood, who has already signed a national letter of intent with Southwest Baptist, has already gone 3-0 this season, including a no-hitter against Fayetteville to open 6A-West Conference play Monday. She said she loves to work at a fast pace when she’s in the circle, but it sometimes gets the best of her.
She said many of the hits she allowed last year came when she had a 0-2 count and tried to go for the fast strikeout. That is something she has worked on during the offseason, as well as improving a drop ball to go with her other pitches, which includes a fastball, curve, changeup, rise ball and screwball.
“Ever since I started throwing in rec league, all you needed to do was throw strikes,” she said. “So my entire life, I’ve been ‘throw strikes and throw it in the zone.’ I never really focused on speed until recently, so my style is to attack the zone.
“I would have an 0-2 pitch, and I would still have it in the zone. That’s where I gave up a lot of my hits. I worked a lot this year on locating pitches better, depending on the count.”...