Thiem overcomes injury to sign with Cisco

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Liberty Hill senior softball player Nicole Thiem, seated, signed to continue her career as a pitcher at Cisco College on Jan. 15. On hand for the occasion were, from left, assistant softball coach Carlos Garza, head coach Charice Hankins, mother Jeannette Thiem, father Randy Thiem and assistant softball coach Kristen Brewer. (Lauren Jette Photo)

Liberty Hill senior softball player Nicole Thiem, seated, signed to continue her career as a pitcher at Cisco College on Jan. 15. On hand for the occasion were, from left, assistant softball coach Carlos Garza, head coach Charice Hankins, mother Jeannette Thiem, father Randy Thiem and assistant softball coach Kristen Brewer. (Lauren Jette Photo)

By LAUREN JETTE

Liberty Hill High School senior softball pitcher Nicole Thiem’s path to her college signing last week hasn’t been a straight one.

In fact, the school she ended up signing with, Cisco College in Cisco, wasn’t originally the school she was talking with before a nerve injury in her throwing arm limited her in the playoffs last season.

“I was talking to Temple for a little bit and then I got hurt,” Thiem explained.

“When I got hurt, I didn’t really know if I was going to make it back, period. So I lost touch with Temple, I lost touch with all of the colleges I was looking into.”

After Thiem decided to make a comeback from her injury Cisco College offered her a spot on the team.

“When I decided to start pitching again and not let my injury get me, I went to a camp (at Cisco) and pitched there and (the coach) saw me and asked me to come up on a visit immediately,” Thiem said. “She gave me an offer right then.”

Thiem made the offer official after signing with the Wranglers last week with family, coaches and friends present.

The four-year softball letterman said she was drawn to the school because of the similarities to Liberty Hill.

“The campus is really old and really small. It’s more like Liberty Hill, small, so it was really nice,” Thiem said.

“The coach, I got along with her immediately, it wasn’t like a little weird,” she said. “It was comforting immediately. The dorms are small, only two girls in a room, not four like some of the other dorms.”

Thiem wasn’t sure if she would even be playing her senior season, much less in college after the end of last season, when the Lady Panthers made it as far as the regional quarterfinals.

“I started losing feeling in my hand and I’d get shocking pains in my elbow and wrist,” Thiem said.

Her father took her to a massagist, who thought it was a problem with her back, and massaged it. Instead of helping, Thiem discovered they massaged the nerve out of place.

“I was still playing at the time, but it was killing me to play. I could only get two innings, three innings at most,” Thiem said.

Doctors told Thiem it was her ulnar nerve, one of three nerves in the arm, that travels from the neck to the hand.

“We went to another doctor and they were like, ‘it’s your nerve’. I went to therapy so I could keep playing,” she said. “Then I did a shocking test where they could see my nerve, and they told me there was a little bit of slowness there, but it wasn’t bad, but they said let’s do surgery, because it could hurt you if you don’t.

“Sure enough, they went in there and my nerve was completely out of socket,” she said. “So my nerve had gotten big and it wouldn’t fit in the socket, so they moved it to the other side of my elbow and made a new socket for it.”

The road to recovery was a tedious one.

“It took a little while to get back, but I did,” Thiem said.

“It was very scary. I didn’t think I was going to make it back at all. It’s been really hard (to rehab),” she said. “The first month pitching it would swell up really big, two golf ball-sizes. It would get really big and we’d have to ice it and go back and ice it again. It was a lot.”

Being a pitcher from the age of 11, Thiem wasn’t ready to call it a career just yet, so she worked hard during the offseason to come back and play her last season as a Lady Panther.

“It’s pretty awesome. I’m hoping I can be like I was before. That’s more what I’m worried about, not being to my potential. I’ve been working and trying as hard as I can,” Thiem said.

Her coach and teammates are looking forward to having her back on the field this season.

“Nicole works hard, and loves this game, and we know that she will contribute every game,” said head coach Charice Hankins.

“We are happy that her surgery went well, and know that she has worked hard in the offseason, to rehab and to get back to where she needs to be to perform at the level that she wants to be at her senior year. We look forward to seeing her back on the field.”

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with stepping into the center ring of the field, but Thiem doesn’t let that bother her.

“I really like that I can control the game. I really like controlling stuff,” Thiem said. “I really like being able to help out the team on every play. I can control the game. If I need to get an out, I’m probably going to go and get that out, versus just hoping we get the out. That’s not me.”

But her favorite part of playing softball?

“Striking people out,” she said with a laugh. “It feels real good, especially when you have bases loaded.”

With the first day of practice set for Friday, Thiem is ready to take the Lady Panthers farther this season.

“I’m hoping we’ll go all the way,” she said. “Our team isn’t as strong as last year, but we’re strong and we can work with each other and work off of each other to get to where we need to be.”

Thiem is grateful to those who helped her get to this point.

“I thank my parents and grandparents for getting me where I am now and standing by my side through it all,” she said. “Thank you to Ginger Floyd and Jarod Floyd and Billy Walker for helping me get started and having faith in me.”

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