MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (BVM) – Autumn Pease was close to calling it quits after her senior season with Minnesota softball. The right-handed pitcher faced constant arm pain last season due to bicep surgery she had after her junior year. Only able to last for about 60 pitches a game and in pain regularly, Pease was reaching her boiling point.
“I told myself at the end of season that I wasn’t going to come back because I just thought I didn’t want to cause any damage to my arm that could have been lifelong damage,” Pease said. “I was just telling myself, ‘Well I can’t quit now,’ didn’t want to end on a bad note.
“I was super close to stepping away but I’m glad I didn’t obviously.”
Pease is now the ace for the Golden Gophers and was just named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. The fifth-year senior earned the Big Ten’s triple crown of pitching by leading the conference in ERA (1.45), wins (26) and strikeouts (256). Pease’s 26-7 record this season played a pivotal role in Minnesota’s 37-17 record as well as its third place finish in the Big Ten.
It was a return to the production the Murrieta, California native was having as a junior when she was named to the All-Big Ten second team. That year, Pease had a 12-3 record with a 1.75 ERA and 108 strikeouts. But her return to this high level of play and the ascension to being the best pitcher in the Big Ten was not guaranteed at the beginning of the season.
“I was definitely scared to even start the season because that’s when I started having all my problems last year after my surgery,” Pease said.
The Gophers’ ace was in pain throughout last season. Pease could get to about 60 pitches before the pain would really start to affect her play but even before reaching 60 pitches, the pain would start to build. That entire season, she and the training staff tried everything to get rid of the pain but nothing had seemed to work.
However, she wasn’t going to leave her Minnesota softball career on that note so even though there was a lot of uncertainty, she was going to give the Gophers whatever she had left.
“I’m going to end my career doing whatever I can for the team,” Pease said about her mindset entering the season.
The difference this year is that the training staff approached Pease about trying platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP). The treatment involves injecting a concentration of the patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of that patient’s injured tendons, ligaments, muscles or joints. It’s a treatment that has been used by MLB players, including Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.
“As soon as they brought it up I was like, ‘OK I’m sold. I might as well try anything at this point,’” Pease said.
Even after the treatment, Pease was unsure of what she would be able to do for Minnesota once she threw that first pitch. It didn’t take long for her and the Gophers to realize the pain was gone. A year ago, she could only last for 60 pitches and this season, Pease threw 18 complete games.
The relief is hard to put into words. Pease spent a whole season trying everything humanly possible to get better and even though she wasn’t at 100%, she still gave Minnesota everything she had. It was a massive mental strain on her that usually only fellow athletes that deal with lingering injuries can relate to. Pease got through the fog of injury and was able to finally see the sunshine.
“It was just nice to know that I had made the right decision in coming back and all of my hard work returning from surgery had paid off,” Pease said.
It has more than paid off and Pease believes her journey has influenced how her teammates enter games. After watching Pease go through the season she went through last year – playing through pain and trying all kinds of treatment to get healthy for the team – suddenly, playing hard for two hours during a game didn’t seem so bad.
Pease thinks it’s one of the reasons the Gophers got hot late and won 11 straight games to finish the regular season. Her teammates pushed through the struggles within games and looked to Pease as their leader.
“The girls tell me that they’ll do anything I say and I think that’s because I have really just put in the work and have shown that if you try, you can do it,” Pease said.
All of it is paying off for Pease and Minnesota. She is having the best season of her career, was drafted by the Texas Smoke of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch League and Minnesota is trending in the right direction heading into the postseason.
Pease has given Gophers softball everything she has as a softball player and in return, she is getting the proper send off for one of the best pitchers in Minnesota Gophers history.