By Brendan Kurie, The Standard Times (New Bedford)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Before she threw a pitch for the Apponequet varsity softball team, Kaitlyn Shaw had undergone five knee surgeries.
Before she ever started a home game for Bridgewater State, Shaw had won a MASCAC Pitcher of the Week award.
It appears she likes to get things out of the way.
The Lakeville native went 3-1 for the Bears during their 10-game Florida trip to open the season, finishing with a 3.21 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 28 ⅓ innings pitched. She walked just five and allowed a .278 batting average against in earning the conference honor in her first week as a collegiate pitcher.
“I was shocked, honestly,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t expecting it. It feels good, definitely.”
Shaw grew up in Freetown and Lakeville — the only child of Apponequet graduates Jen and Joe Shaw — and started playing softball as early as she remembers.
But in 2012, while at a clinic, she broke her tibia, tore her meniscus and dislocated her kneecap while trying to steal second base. Doctors said her quadriceps muscle was stronger than her hamstring, causing the debilitating injury.
Over the next three years, she would tear her ACL twice, and suffer an IT band injury, resulting in four more surgeries by the time she was a sophomore in high school. But she never considered walking away from the sport.
“I just love the game,” she said. “The people who say you can’t do it, they’re motivation to get back out there.”
Shaw was the Lakers’ primary pitcher her final two years of high school, although the team struggled as a whole. Her senior year she was dual enrolled at Bridgewater State, taking all her classes on campus and returning to Apponequet mostly for softball.
“I just fell in love with the school,” she said. “I loved the campus, the teachers and the people. The environment is great.”
The Bears were coming off a 15-20 season, but had recently enjoyed success, finishing 25-15 in 2016 and winning an NCAA Regional Championship in 2014 with a 32-14 record.
So Shaw was surprised during the preseason when first-year coach Lindsey Couturier pulled her into a meeting and told her she’d be counted on for significant innings as a freshman.
“I thought (playing time) was going to come later,” Shaw said. “I’m privileged to do it. I just love being on the mound and being able to control part of the game.”
She started the Bears’ season opener, a 13-2 win over Johnson State, pitching 5 1/3 innings and giving up one earned run on four hits while striking out five and walking one. The next day she suffered a loss against Mount Union, but bounced back with wins over Mount Ida and Catholic, a complete-game victory.
“There was a little bit of nerves, but mostly excitement,” she said of her debut. “It was great.”
After all those surgeries, Shaw has been healthy for the past three seasons — somewhere, she’s knocking on wood — but that hasn’t diminished her interest in becoming an orthopedic surgeon, so she can help athletes with injuries like her own. Toward that end, she’s working toward a biology undergraduate degree before enrolling in medical school.