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The Colleges : Granger Itching to Return to Pitching for California

Times Staff Writer

Every pitch makes her eager, every out haunts her desire to play, every inning simply frustrates her. Michele Granger is suffering from softball withdrawal, and tossing the habit has not been easy.

Granger, the heralded Valencia High School pitcher who has returned to Orange County this week, is bothered by a swelling in her pitching hand. Her team, the 14th-ranked California Golden Bears, are competing in the Pony tournament at Cal State Fullerton, but Granger will be doing what she’s done best for the past month--watch and cheer from the bench.

It has been nine years since she started competing in softball, and being forced into a spectator’s role only makes her hurt more.

“It’s really frustrating,” Granger said, while her teammates warmed up Thursday for a game against Northwestern. “It’s been somewhat boring since I’ve been hurt. I basically just sit and watch while they ice my hand. I’d much rather be playing.”

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What’s worse, no one knows exactly what’s wrong with her left hand and no one can say when she will play again. When Granger throws, the swelling starts. When she’s done, her fingers look like sausages.

“They still don’t know what’s wrong,” she said. “They (team physicians) have been doing rehabilitation on my arm to keep it in shape.”

The swelling began bothering her earlier this season, but the freshman managed a 2-2 record in four games, striking out 37 with an 0.56 earned-run average.

At Valencia, she set a number of national high school records, including career strikeouts (1,635), career no-hitters (36) and career perfect games (nine). She also helped lead the United States to the 1986 Women’s World Championship and helped her U.S. team to the gold medal in the 1987 Pan American Games.

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All those pitches in all those seasons took their toll on her arm. Although the doctors don’t think that’s the problem, Granger says it might have something to do with it. “That’s my opinion at least,” she said.

“I had a very easy year last year--easy in that I didn’t pitch a lot of warm-ups or practices--but I was throwing a lot again this year,” she said. “I think it was my fault. If you are throwing on an injury, it’s going to get worse. I ignored it for a while and kept pitching.”

The pain won’t leave her alone now. She can’t wait for the day when the swelling subsides and the competition resumes. “The season’s almost half over,” Granger said. “I just hope it’s not too distant.”


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