WELLS — Lauren Bame doesn’t remember the line drive that hit her flush in the right cheek, breaking her nose and cheek, splitting her lip wide open and knocking her out with a severe concussion.
Wells High softball coach Kevin Fox remembers. Three years later it still gives him shivers.
“She was lifeless,” Fox said. “She swayed for a second and then it was like there wasn’t a bone in her body. She just crumpled.”
Bame is now the standout senior pitcher for No. 3 Wells (15-3) and the prime reason the Warriors have gone from a 9-7 team that finished 10th in 2013 to Wednesday’s 3:30 p.m. Western Class B final against No. 1 Cape Elizabeth (18-0) at St. Joseph’s College.
“Her pitching has definitely improved,” Wells third baseman Jordan Agger said. “She’s crushed her numbers compared to last year.”
“I definitely think she’s throwing harder,” Wells catcher Meghan Young said. “And her other pitches are coming in better, especially her change-up and her curve.”
Bame didn’t wear a protective mask as a freshman when she was injured. When Bame returned to pitching as a sophomore, she put on a mask to protect her face but didn’t feel safe.
“Pitching terrified me,” Bame said. “I had a really bad flinch. I would kind of hide my face every time they swung or the ball was hit. And if they hit it, there wasn’t a chance I was going to catch it.”
The thing was, both Bame and Fox knew Bame was Wells’ best option on the mound.
Bame grew up in Huntington Beach, California. Between the ages of 8 and 13 she played softball year round. She worked with a pitching coach for several years.
When she moved to Wells in the eighth grade, it wasn’t long before she began practicing occasionally with Fox’s varsity.
Fox said he knew he had a prime talent but wanted to work Bame slowly into the pitching rotation. All the makings for a standout high school career seemed in place.
Then the injury happened.
“I got what they called a double concussion because my brain bounced back and forth twice, when I got hit with (the ball) and then when my head hit the ground when I fell,” Bame said.
After missing close to two months, Bame came back for one late-season at-bat as a freshman.
“I swung like five seconds after the pitch went by me because my reaction time was just not there. I just remember being so frustrated that I couldn’t hit it,” Bame said.
As a sophomore and junior, her ability to hit came back but her inability to handle even the slowest comebacker made her begin to think a position switch was her only option.
“Toward the end of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year when I thought that my fear was never going to get better, I talked with Coach about not wanting to pitch as much and I wanted to play the outfield,” Bame said. “Then I don’t know, when I came back this year all of that thought just kind of went away.”
Bame said she briefly tried counseling and considered hypnosis. She believes ultimately it was simply playing that helped.
“Slowly, the more balls that are hit to me the easier it becomes,” Bame said. “The more games I play where I don’t get hit, the easier it becomes. I feel like I’m back to the level I was before.”
In a regular-season game at Falmouth, the first batter Bame faced laced a single up the middle that missed her right hip by about four inches. She didn’t flinch and went on to pitch 14 innings, giving up six hits and striking out 14 in a 5-2 win.
Earlier this season Bame and several teammates added another piece to their game-day uniform: large streaks of eye black that extend down their cheeks.
“We wanted to bring the same edge that the other teams that intimidated us were doing and I think it’s really helped us,” Bame said.
The eye black didn’t make Bame pitch better but it did represent something.
Being timid was a thing of the past.