The loudest crack when hitting a home run is usually that of the bat. The most delightful play in softball also should be just that: delightful.
That wasn’t the case for Sydney Cunningham in the fourth game of the season last spring.
“It was against Brighton High, I hit a home run and my [left] shoulder had rotated back,” the South Boston senior recalled after the Knights' opening day loss to Latin Academy last week. “My rotator cuff got bruised so I couldn’t play. It still clicks now.
“I heard the crack of my rotator cuff grinding together and it was just horrendous, I was on the verge of crying.”
Cunningham, who spent all of last season rehabbing her shoulder and was unable to bring herself to attend South Boston’s game on the days she didn’t have physical therapy, couldn’t even watch the Knights' 24-12 loss to Brighton in the preliminary round of the Division 3 North state tournament last spring.
Now she couldn’t be more thrilled to be back in the lineup.
“It felt so good,” she said after the 16-0 loss to Latin Academy. “Being able to put the uniform back on is an amazing feeling. It’s my senior year, it’s my last year. I’m going to go all out for the chance and hopefully play when I enter college.”
First, Cunningham, who carries a 3.6 GPA, will enlist in the Air Force for two years, she said.
For now though, the righthander is learning how to play shortstop. Despite the fact that she was the team’s starting first baseman in her freshman and sophomore years and for the first four games of last year, Cunningham and her coach, Mary Linehan, felt she would feel more comfortable at short this year.
But the transition is an adjustment.
“It’s just because I was feeling pressure [at first base] and I have a really good throwing arm so it would be a lot more easier for me to play [short],” she said. “It’s crazy, I’m learning how to maneuver from first to shortstop. I was trained on first, so it’s more difficult being trained on a different position.
"There’s more pressure on first than there is on shortstop, but I feel a lot more free.”
Linehan said she’s hoping freshman Americle Ogarro will fill the void at first base.
“She’s a great first baseman but I’m hoping she will do well at shortstop,” Linehan said of Cunningham. “She has a strong arm. Hopefully we can train somebody else at first. We’ll see what happens. We’re a young team.”
Overall, Linehan is just happy to have Cunningham back in the lineup.
“She’s a very strong player in our lineup and I’m very excited to have her back this year,” Linehan said. “I hope she can keep her shoulder good so she stays the entire year. It’s very exciting. I coached her since she was a freshman. Last year we really missed her. The whole team missed her. It’s too bad too because we went to the playoffs last year.”
Linehan said more than her fielding and hitting ability, the team missed Cunningham’s leadership.
“Definitely her leadership and how she helps the freshman,” she said. “She’s always encouraging the freshmen: ‘You can do it, you can do it.’
“She’s a good kid.”
Cunningham’s goal is to make it back to the state tournament, which she played in as a freshman.
“It was a good feeling to be in states my freshman year on a varsity team,” Cunningham said. “It would take our heart and soul to get into states [this year]. It would mean everything to go to states my senior year.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.