HOPE — Tessa Sims hoped her shoulder problems were behind her after she took about an eight-month break from pitching.
But after pitching the first couple of games of this softball season, the Hauser junior began experiencing an even greater pain.
“There were a lot of nights, I can’t even count on both my hands, waking up in the middle of the night just because of how painful it was,” she said. “Sometimes, it just felt like someone was stabbing me right on the side of the neck, it felt so bad.”
Sims, who helped lead Hauser to a Class A state title as a freshman and a final four appearance last year, already had been diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). But she wanted to try to get through at least the first five games of the season, when the Jets played four the toughest teams on their schedule.
So in back-to-back games against Edinburgh in games that likely will decide the Mid-Hoosier Conference title, Sims was in the circle. Although she wasn’t as dominant as she’s been the past couple years, she was good enough to win both games.
On April 11, the day after the second Edinburgh game, Sims’ father, Hauser coach Craig Sims, took her to Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. She saw Dr. Robert Thomas, who has performed surgeries on several college softball players.
Thomas advised her to give up pitching for the season and scheduled surgery for June 13 — two days after the state finals.
“When the doctor first told me, I didn’t say very nice words to him,” she said. “I was like of like, ‘OK, let’s do this surgery so I can get back for next season.'”
Craig Sims had taken Tessa to doctors in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. The doctor in Cincinnati, Dr. Henry Stein at Beacon Orthopedics, has had three daughters play college softball, including one who pitches for Ohio University.
Stein referred them to Dr. Thomas in St. Louis.
“I really respect (Stein’s) opinion,” Craig Sims said. “He’s been there, done that. He knows all about it, so I really trust his judgement. He did some research and talked to some people and basically told us, ‘This is where you need to go to get this procedure done, and nowhere else.'”
In the surgery, Thomas will remove the first rib and two muscles that run along the side of Tessa’s neck. She said that would give the bones and muscles that are squished together more room.
Meanwhile, Tessa is far from completely done playing this season. She is still able to hit, and she’s tearing it up this season.
Tessa, who is playing first base, leads the Jets with a .571 batting average, five triples, two home runs and 20 runs scored. She ranks second on the team to senior catcher Hailey Lange with four doubles and 21 RBIs.
“I feel like I should be doing better,” Tessa said. “In the postseason, if we want to go anywhere, I think a lot of us have to step up and hit better.”
Knowing she couldn’t pitch, Craig Sims left the decision of whether to keep hitting and playing in the field to Tessa.
Because Hauser has been hit by a rash of injuries to other players this season, she decided to keep playing.
“But just playing first (base) is really hard,” she said. “It’s kind of frustrating in some games and some moments, but altogether, everyone is making adjustments. Everyone is not healthy, but we’re playing with what we have. We’re doing really well, I think. There’s some moments we have because we’re so young, and we just make some routine mistakes.”
Tessa was 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 23 innings this season. Her main replacement, sophomore Hunter Crain, is 5-2 with a 4.30 ERA.
On Friday, Craig Sims summoned junior Sydney Schoen for her varsity start, and she pitched a two-hitter in a 16-2, five-inning win at Waldron.
Somehow, the Jets still have managed an 11-2 record and a No. 3 ranking in Class A. Their lone losses have come against 4A Shelbyville and 3A Brown County.
Craig Sims noted that while his team recorded a lot of its outs via strikeouts from Tessa the past couple years, it now needs to rely on its defense and hitting.
“We have to score more runs,” he said. “In the past, we’d get a lot of outs in the circle, and with a run or two, we’d feel confident in winning the ballgame. Now, we don’t feel confident unless we get six or seven runs, so it’s changed a lot.”
Tessa has committed to play at Indiana State. Her sister Leslie, the state’s all-time stolen base leader, currently is enjoying a sparkling freshman season with the Sycamores.
Hauser still will be favored to win this year’s Rising Sun Sectional and likely would host Edinburgh again in the regional. By that time, Tessa may try to return to the pitching circle.
“We’re just trying to save her arm as much as possible to see if possibly she could throw some in the postseason,” Craig Sims said. “If she can’t, she can’t. If she can, great. Then in June, we’re going to get the surgery and get it behind us.”
Name: Tessa Sims
High school: Hauser
Key stats: 4-0, 2.13 ERA; .571 average, four doubles, five triples, two home runs, 21 RBIs and 20 runs scored
Family: Parents Craig (the Hauser coach) and Shannon and sister Leslie (a freshman on the Indiana State team)