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Walking Wounded: Allen puts hurt on foes

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior utility player Wendy Allen has undergone wrist and knee surgery but continues to play softball for the Wildcats.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
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Do-everything senior thrives despite handful of serious injuries

In the world of sports, injuries leave many athletes wondering what might have been.

On the Arizona softball team, Wendy Allen is such a player.

A senior who plays first base, designated player and pitcher, Allen has been significantly limited by injuries her whole college career.

While playing soccer in high school, she blew out three major ligaments in one of her knees. During her freshman year at Ohio State, she discovered she had wrist tendinitis while pitching a game.

"It's been tough because I know that she wants to be at her full potential and she's a great player even with her injuries," said OSU senior pitcher/first baseman Kristi DeVries, who Allen played with for four years before college and two years at Ohio State. "I couldn't even imagine what she would be like without her injuries. She's always seemed to have something holding her back, but she always seems to pull through."

Even with her injuries, the left-handed Allen has led the nation in batting average most of the year. She is currently hitting .421, and in the circle she is 8-0 with a 1.35 ERA. Her opponents have hit .197 against her this season.

Allen, the 2001 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and 2002 Big Ten Player of the Year before transferring to Arizona last season, said had she not been injured, she would probably pitch more often and be better offensively. She said she isn't as fast as UA freshman leadoff hitter and center fielder Caitlin Lowe, but close to the speed of sophomore left fielder Autumn Champion and junior right fielder Allyson Von Liechtenstein.

"I could have been on base more, because I was faster," Allen said. "That just gives you more chances, more opportunities to get on base if you are quick, so that's a huge deal."

Allen had surgery on her left wrist after last season.

"The wrist thing was kind of a nagging problem; it hurt her a little bit last year," said UA acting head coach Larry Ray. "Having the operation has helped her as a hitter and has helped her a little bit with throwing, but it still hurts her when she throws, and that's why I limit her in her opportunities to pitch."

Allen estimates that her wrist, along with her overall game, is at 80 percent.

"The injuries suck, because if you're hurt you can't get better," Allen said.

Allen said her health has been "pretty decent" this year.

"I don't throw or pitch as much as I did, ever, so it is keeping my wrists sort of healthy and at first I don't have to throw a lot, so it is keeping my wrist OK. When I throw, it hurts, but I just try to deal with it," Allen said. "With my knee, I took really good care of it in the fall iced it every day, I went in the whirlpool every day but it is starting to catch up with me, so I just deal with it."

Ray says Allen has had a tremendous year and that opposing pitchers try to "dance around her." Ray prefers to have Allen, who played outfield at Ohio State, play designated player rather than first so she doesn't have to throw or run as much.

"I think overall, she's our best pure hitter," Ray said. "She very seldom goes into a slump and her hitting mechanics are so sound and she has good judgment. She doesn't chase many bad pitches and she's just technically so sound that it is hard for her to go into a slump."

When asked about what she thought about leading the nation in RBIs, Allen said, "Nothing really," she laughed and shifted focus to the Wildcats who get on base in front of her.

"I'm just fortunate to have the people I have on my team because we are on base at least most of the time. That just leaves opportunities to score people, so I just try to do my job," Allen said.

DeVries says Allen is the same type of player she played with when she was a Buckeye.

"She's pretty aggressive and definitely a competitor. She'll challenge anything. She's up for anything," DeVries said. "I know that she loves the sport and she plays through pain and everything because she is a challenger and a competitor all around."

Allen, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif., said she transferred to the UA for two reasons.

"I was homesick that was the main reason and the second reason is the weather, because of my knee. I have screws in my leg, so when it gets cold, my knee gets swollen," Allen said.

What's next for Allen? She has been drafted by the Arizona Heat in the new National Pro Fastpitch league, set to play professionally in the warm Tucson summers.

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