Jan. 20, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Julie Sarratt doesn't waste any time getting organized. She is not only an integral part of a South Carolina team that has made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, but she already has her bachelor's degree in accounting and will complete her master's work in May. She also has a fulltime accounting job lined up beginning in October, and before that, she's getting married in August. Leave it to an accountant to have everything lined up so neatly.
"I am so excited to get started with this season," Sarratt said. "There is so much opportunity in front of us right now. I don't feel any pressure because I know I have things taken care of."
As a freshman, Sarratt didn't waste any time making an impact. She tossed a no-hitter in her collegiate debut against Coastal Carolina and posted an 8-8 record with 2 saves and a 3.38 earned run average. A promising career seemed inevitable, but discomfort in her arm after the season carried over into the fall. An MRI revealed a ligament tear so she had to undergo "Tommy John" surgery, forcing her to miss the entire 2012 season.
"When I first found out that I had the tear, it was a little bit overwhelming," Sarratt said. "I went home and researched Tommy John surgery, and I probably shouldn't have done that. It is kind of scary. I had three more years to go, and I'm thinking, what if I don't get to play my last three years of eligibility? I took it slow to make sure I was going to come back strong."
"I knew based on the care she was going to receive here, she had a really good chance of coming back," said Head Coach Beverly Smith.
After a promising pitcher who was expected to transfer decided not to come at South Carolina at the last minute, leaving the Gamecocks very thin in then pitching staff, Sarratt volunteered to speed up her rehab so she could contribute during that season, but Smith had other plans.
"This speaks to her selflessness," Smith said. "We had made the decision for her to sit out her entire sophomore year after surgery. She was ready to sacrifice her red-shirt year just to help the team. I remember thinking that was pretty awesome, but no, we're not going to do that."
Rehab went well, but there were a few setbacks which made her cease throwing for a while.
"For me, it was a little different because they had mostly done this surgery on baseball players," Sarratt said. "They had the step-by-step throwing program for baseball pitchers. They gave me a plan, but we had to deviate from it at times because softball pitching is different."
I feel like I did come back stronger than how I was before the surgery. My mechanics changed a little bit but for the better. Just having the goals of being at certain points during the rehab process gave me hope.
The athletic trainers and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Mazoue from USC Sports Medicine were confident that the surgery would allow her to come back, perhaps even stronger than she was prior to the injury.
"Some people don't come back from it, and some people come back stronger," Sarratt said. "So I stuck to that hope of coming back stronger. I trusted the doctors and trusted the process of it. I feel like I did come back stronger than how I was before the surgery. My mechanics changed a little bit but for the better. Just having the goals of being at certain points during the rehab process gave me hope."
"She has been a sponge for the game," Smith said. "She's been here five years and she still wants to learn. She learned so much that year she had to sit out after the surgery."
Sarratt received plenty of support from her coaching staff, teammates, and family; including her brother Justin, who pitched at Clemson and had also recovered from different type of elbow surgery. By the spring of 2013, she was back in the circle.
"The first game back was overwhelming," Sarratt said. "My heart rate went up. It was like my freshman year again really, going in there for the first time in over a year. It was really exciting. I was ready to be back. I wasn't scared because I had prepared, and I knew that I was healed."
Sarratt pitched well, posting a 12-8 record with one save and a 3.25 ERA in 2013. She continued to get stronger in 2014, winning 17 games with four saves and a career-best 2.79 ERA. She's hoping for even more success for the Gamecocks in 2015.
"We've set goals as the season goes," Sarratt said. "We want to go to the SEC Tournament. From there we want to go to NCAA regionals. Once we pass that goal, then super regionals. The ultimate goal is the national championship."
While she normally has good command of what happens in the pitching circle, Sarratt found a surprise after one of the 2014 fall exhibition games when her fiancé, Jeremy Press, popped the question.
"We had just sung the alma mater after the game," Sarratt said. "We all turned around and he was out on the pitcher's mound. Nobody knew except Coach Bev. So he did it."
"My favorite part was when he went down on one knee and the team went crazy," Smith said. "As soon as he stood back up they charged the mound."
Most college students may spend their final semester stressing themselves out about finding a job in their field. Sarratt will begin working at the Elliott Davis accounting firm in Greenville, South Carolina, in October.
"I had an internship last summer, and after that they offered me a job," Sarratt said. "I'm really excited. You really have to have a passion for sitting at a desk all day and doing taxes, and I do."
"Julie has her life in order, and she's been that way her whole career," Smith said. "She recognizes her strengths and is very mature."
As she so often is against opposing hitters, Julie Sarratt is way out in front.
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