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Two surgeries early in her high school career were not enough to make Audra Donaldson quit playing softball.
A condition in the recently-graduated Vandalia athlete’s feet left her with tendons that were too short, and she first had surgery to correct them after her freshman year.
That surgery, which included cutting out the tendons, stretching them out and replacing them, did not fix the problem, and Donaldson was back under the knife after her sophomore year.
“(The second one) helped, but it’s still not better,” she said. “It’s just something that I’ve gotten used to and will have to live with for the rest of my life.”
Though the surgeries forced her to forego her senior season of basketball this past winter and give up pitching for the softball team, Donaldson still had one of the finest individual seasons for the Lady Vandals this spring.
Playing in 30 games, Donaldson was 28-for-93 (.301 average), with five doubles and two home runs, and committed just six errors at first base for a team-high fielding percentage of .969.
“I hoped Audra was going to play this year,” said Vandalia coach Brian Buscher. “I’m glad she played for her (sake). It was good for her to finish out her career playing, and I think she’s a great person to battle through those situations.”
In the fall, she will begin battling through college life by attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to study nursing and Spanish.
But this spring, Donaldson said her feet did bother her at times during softball games, especially late in the season, primarily while she was running the bases.
Nonetheless, Donaldson scored 12 times and stole two bases, while maintaining a .356 on-base percentage.
“I love softball, so I think that’s why it didn’t effect me as much,” she said. “But you can ask coach Buscher – he heard me complain more than anyone.”
Buscher said there were some instances when Donaldson requested a pinch-runner, and he praised her for playing through the pain in some games when lifting her from the bases would have forced her to stay on the bench for the remainder of the game.
“There was a game or two that she wanted a pinch-runner,” Buscher said. “It was something that she had to struggle through, but it wasn’t until the last two weeks that her feet really bothered her, because we were playing (almost) every day.”
Donaldson said she “immediately” developed a passion for softball when she began playing on YMCA teams at age 8.
Since then, she has complemented her high school career by participating on several traveling teams during the summer, including the Trenton Thunder.
Buscher said that by playing on those teams, Donaldson developed herself into a star player, in spite of her injuries.
“She knows the game,” he said. “She knows where she needs to be defensively (and offensively), and that’s what makes her good.
“Her IQ of the game is very, very high.”
Some of that IQ was left behind, however, as Donaldson took it upon herself to become a leader for the Lady Vandals this past season.
And while it wasn’t just her efforts that improved the team, she was able to close her career as part of the winningest team in Vandalia softball history, something she called “special.”
“She took a little responsibility on herself in helping make the other girls better,” Buscher said. “She made it work. She made them get better by helping them along.”
The fruits of that labor may not have been realized this season, but if the core of the current team ever makes a deep postseason run, Donaldson will have had an impact on that success.