After paying her dues on the junior varsity squad and as the back up to all-state pitcher Sidney Hooper for the last two years, the Walker Valley junior has stepped out of the shadows with a very impressive start to the new TSSAA softball season.
“Alicia is doing a great job, especially considering she is still recovering from knee surgery last month,” declared Lady Mustang Head Coach Lauren Limburg. “She’s fighting through the injury and has had good control on her pitches. She has good movement and has been very efficient with her pitches.”
“I still had some plica in my [left] knee that didn’t go away, plus I had a small tear in my meniscus, so they had to go in [arthroscopically] to fix the tear and remove the plica,” Raymond explained. “They did that last month [February], and I have had to rush to get back ready to play.”
A condition known as "synovial plica syndrome," is the result of a remnant of fetal tissue in the knee. The synovial plica are membranes that separate the knee into compartments during fetal development. These plica normally diminish in size during the second trimester of fetal development. In adults, they exist as sleeves of tissue called "synovial folds," or plica. In some individuals, the synovial plica is more prominent and prone to irritation.
“I had to take a break for a little while after the surgery, but I’ve worked hard to get back to start the season. My teammates have really backed me up,” she remarked.
This was Raymond’s second surgery for the same thing, as she had her right knee scoped two years ago.
“I’m just so proud of her and her work ethic,” proclaimed Coach Limburg.
Struggling just a bit in her first frame in the circle this season, Raymond has followed that up with 19 straight innings without allowing an earned run, while giving up just five hits as she ran her season record to 4-0.
The Lady Mustangs pushed their unbeaten mark to 6-0 with victories over Cumberland County (8-0) and the host Hendersonville club (2-1) Friday evening, plus beat Cheatham County (8-2) Saturday morning. Walker Valley competed in bracket play at the 52-team Commando Classic Saturday afternoon and evening.
“You have to win five games [in bracket play] to win the tournament. The championship game isn’t set until 10:30 tonight,” Coach Limburg related Saturday afternoon.
Coming on in relief in Tuesday’s opener against Rhea County, Raymond gave up three hits, a walk, threw a wild pitch and allowed three earned runs in her first inning of work. However, she followed that up with a 1-2-3 sixth inning and overcame a hit batsman and a double for a scoreless seventh frame to pick up the pitching victory as the Lady Mustangs rallied to nip the Lady Eagles 6-5.
Right back at it the next day, Raymond toed the rubber from the beginning and fired a two-hit, seven-inning shutout against an East Hamilton team that has played in the last two TSSAA state tournaments, after having beaten Ooltewah 10-4 the day before. Walker Valley won the game by an 8-0 margin.
Raymond blanked county-rival Bradley Central Thursday, giving up a single to the second batter before setting down 13 of the next 14 batters to complete a 13-0 five-inning win.
“I’m feeling good, but I don’t think I’m 100 percent yet,” Raymond said after Thursday’s game at Bob McKenzie Field. “I’m still fighting the knee. I’m wanting to have a few more strikeouts to help the defense more, but the defense has really picked me up. They’re doing a great job.”
Throwing for the fourth day in a row, Raymond beat a tough Hendersonville team 2-1 Friday evening, allowing just one hit and an unearned run in the third inning. As she had hoped, she increased her strikeout total to six in the five-inning contest.
In the 14-inning scoreless stretch before heading to the Commando Classic, Raymond allowed just eight balls to leave the infield and made a half dozen plays herself to record outs. She has given out just three free passes in her first 15 innings of work this season — only one walk and a pair of hit batsmen.
Raymond is joined on the Lady Mustang pitching staff by junior lefty Carly Frost, who threw the first four frames against Rhea County. The former Cleveland Lady Raider gave up a pair of runs and six hits to the Lady Eagles before giving way to Raymond.
“Pitching is so key in our game. With Sidney [Hooper] graduating, we were expecting Alicia and Carly to step in for us, and so far they’ve done a great job,” Coach Limburg praised. “Alicia has pitched in around 20 varsity games as a freshman and sophomore, so she’s not completely new to it.”
Hooper has started four games and appeared in seven altogether for Austin Peay so far this season, posting a 1-2 record with a save. She has 10 strikeouts in 25 innings of work. The Lady Govs are 12-9 on the season.
Raymond has also been hot at the plate in the first three games this season, reaching base seven times in 10 at-bats, including four hits, one of which was a double. Three of her hits, plus a walk, have led to four runs scored by her courtesy runners.
“Her determination and positive attitude in working ... through these injuries has been tremendous,” Coach Limburg remarked. “Our whole team has been playing well this week. We are off to a great start, and Alicia is a big part of that.”