West Hall junior Madison Blum was about as dependable as they come at the plate this softball season.
With a .563 batting average, Blum’s teammates knew that every time she was up to bat, she was more likely than not to produce a hit.
It’s an impressive mark for any player, but even more so in Blum’s case, considering just a few months earlier the Lady Spartans weren’t even sure she would be able to play at all.
Blum moved to Hall County the year before her freshman season at West Hall. While touring the school prior to her ninth grade year, Blum was told by then Lady Spartans coach Kasey Knight that she had a good chance to start immediately for the varsity team — a major draw to the program for the Blum’s.
“That was super exciting,” Blum said. “I was really excited about that, because I had always wanted to play high school.”
Blum made the team as a freshman, but the start of her high school career coincided with elbow issues stemming from a stress fracture and persistent tendonitis.
The pain progressed throughout her first two years, to a point where Blum’s status for her junior season was in serious question.
“I was talking with her, talking with her parents, and honestly at one point it was kind of up in the air whether or not she was going to be able to play at all,” current West Hall coach Brannon Humphries said.
Eventually, Blum was cleared to swing. Later in the season, she managed a return to the field defensively, where she played catcher for about half the year.
Despite the injuries, Humphries said he never saw any indication of a drop off in play from Blum — on either offense or defense.
“My love for the game kind of overcame the pain I felt,” she said. “I just realized I’m happiest when I’m doing this. As long as I’m icing and taking care of my body, whatever I can do to overcome it, I’ll work through it.”
Blum’s impact off the field has been just as impactful for the Lady Spartans.
The program was in the midst of a transition period, with Humphries taking over as head coach following the 2018 season. In an effort to turn things around for the team — which has won only one region game in the past four years — Humphries implemented more summer practices and added time in the weight room.
The changes caused a bit of an adjustment period for West Hall, but Blum’s positive attitude has helped to keep the Lady Spartans engaged and willing to put in the extra work.
“She did a good job of making sure that one, she was prepared and doing what she was supposed to be doing, leading that way by example, and then also motivating the other girls, her teammates,” Humphries said. “Just trying to boost morale, and making sure that everybody is pulling their weight. She does a good job at that.”
Blum said continued elbow pain has pushed her away from pursuing playing in college, but it has not stopped her from wanting to leave a positive mark on the West Hall softball program while she can.
Though the team has improved its win total every year she has been with it, the Lady Spartans have not qualified for the state playoffs, and they still have a lot of work to do in order to eventually contend in the hyper-competitive Region 7-4A. For Blum, helping West Hall take another step in the right direction is the most important goal going into her fourth and final season.
“I want to see the players grow and continue to improve,” she said. “That would probably be the most satisfactory thing for me. I do want to continue to keep my batting average over .500 next year, but definitely the biggest thing is to see my peers improve.”