Central Cass standout to pitch left-handed following surgery
Casselton, N.D. - Sierra Amundson has been a regular member of the Central Cass softball team's pitching rotation the past two seasons.
After going 8-0 as a starter her sophomore season in which Central Cass won the North Dakota Class B state championship, Amundson was penciled in as the team's returning ace in 2014 - at least until early August of last year.
That is when the right-handed junior found out her pitching arm needed Tommy John surgery - a procedure where the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The diagnosis put Amundson's junior season in serious jeopardy because a Tommy John procedure carries with it a year of rest and rehabilitation.
"I cried," Amundson said. "I cried a lot. At first, they told me I needed surgery and I said 'OK' and then they said it is a year layup, and at first that doesn't hit you, but then you realize, 'Oh, that is my entire junior year gone and hopefully playing my senior year if things go well.'"
Everyone thought Amundson would be on the shelf this spring - at least when it came to pitching.
Everyone but Amundson.
Amundson was set on being a pitcher and would do anything to make that happen, even if she had to pitch left-handed.
It seems far-fetched, but that is exactly what Amundson has done the past eight months. She has become a self-made southpaw and has every intention on pitching innings this spring as a lefty.
"It is hard for me sit and watch when I want to play so bad," Amundson said. "So I told myself, 'I'll just switch hands. It can't be that hard.' Then you try it and you really find out how difficult it is. ... I kept going with it and practiced as often as I could.
"I had to find a way to play," Amundson added. "I was going to find a way into the lineup no matter what."
How effective Amundson will be as a left-hander is the big question.
Central Cass head coach Scott Kost admitted he was skeptical of his veteran hurler making a switch in pitching hands.
"I am surprised, but having said that I really shouldn't be surprised," Kost said. "Sierra is a remarkable kid and works so hard. Like anyone else would, she has struggled with the mechanics of (throwing left-handed) and struggled getting the ball in the strike zone, but she has kept working at. She doesn't give up, and I'm very confident she will throw some innings for us this season left-handed."
Amundson posted a 1.61 ERA last season and has received both all-state and all-region honors over the last two seasons.
Her success as a right-hander has made the transition easier and difficult at the same time.
"The mental part has been the most challenging part of learning to throw left-handed," Amundson said. "Throwing right-handed, I had everything down to muscle memory. Everything is opposite and is different left-handed. I have to constantly remind myself of that, and it is frustrating knowing I could be throwing with my other hand so much easier."
Amundson's new delivery has also meant some changes for catcher Jessie Roesler.
"It has taken some time getting used to seeing the different spin of the ball, but she has really worked hard at it," Roesler said. "I'm happy for her."
Amundson is still undergoing rehab on her right arm, but she is able to deliver pitches right-handed in a limited capacity.
As it stands, Amundson can deliver about 30 pitches right-handed, and by the end of the season, that number could increase if her arm continues to respond positively to rehab.
It is possible for Amundson to pitch both as a left-handed and right-handed pitcher this season, but most of her innings will be as a lefty.
"It really gives us another arm," said Kost, who is open to Amundson pitching as a starter and a reliever this spring. "You need kids who can throw, especially in a season that might be condensed down to six or seven weeks. So having her ability to throw both right- and left-handed could be a big advantage for us."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562