This was supposed to be a joyous weekend for Kenzie Fowler, a time to celebrate her career in front of friends and family on Arizona softball’s senior day.
Instead, that career is over.
The Canyon del Oro star and two-time All-American will miss the remainder of her senior season after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in her left shoulder, the school announced on Wednesday night.
Fowler, who suffered the same injury during her high school career but in her right shoulder, said late Wednesday night that she first felt pain last Thursday night, and that it worsened on Sunday in Seattle, when she pitched two innings in the first game of a double-header against the Washington Huskies.
Fowler is scheduled for another MRI, and she’s still seeking treatment options, which include surgery. The syndrome – which is caused when blood vessels and nerves compress in the space between the collarbone and the first rib – introduces the risk of a blood clot, and Fowler said her main priority now is quality of life.
“I want to be active; I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” Fowler said. “It’s not like I’m going to shut down and be a couch a potato.”
The injury is just the latest in a long line of disappointments for the star pitcher, who missed all of 2013 after back surgery and was injured earlier this year when she was hit by a batted ball. The two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year at CDO, considered one of the top recruits in program history, went 8-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 24 games this season for the 40-11 Wildcats.
Her absence comes at a brutal time for the team, which hosts top-rated Oregon this weekend at Hillenbrand Stadium to close out the regular season.
“We are all very sad about Kenzie’s recent diagnosis of TOS,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said in a statement. “She has endured so much to represent our university and the Arizona softball program. We will enjoy the great memories that she has provided our fans, the Tucson community and her teammates over her career as a Wildcat.”
As a freshman, Fowler was one of the top players in the country, finishing with a 38-9 record and a 1.53 ERA while earning first-team All-American honors and helping lead the Wildcats to the Women’s College World Series.
She had hoped to help carry Arizona back to the WCWS, and now she intends to “put on the coaching hat” while remaining active with the team.
She said she’ll be in uniform this weekend, because, “I’m not giving that up.”
But, she said, she’s taking the news hard, as are the rest of the Wildcats.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Fowler said. “My emotions are all over the place right now. I’m numb one minute, the next minute crying my eyes out. I feel like I’m still going to practice for bullpen. It’s really hard. This weekend being senior weekend…it’s heartbreaking."