Sophomore and junior years are prime time for many NCAA Division I prospects, and that's when Jordan Prutzer did practically nothing on the softball field.
The lefthanded pitcher sat out her sophomore season at Methacton because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
She sat out her junior season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
She missed most of her travel-team seasons, too.
"After my knee injuries, I wasn't sure if Division I would ever happen for me," Prutzer said. "I kept my hopes up, but in the back of my mind, I knew it may not happen."
The senior committed to Villanova on Monday, bypassing a partial athletic scholarship and accepting a larger academic aid package.
Prutzer, 18, owes the opportunity to her private pitching coach, who also happens to be Villanova's softball coach. Since Prutzer was 12, Maria DiBernardi has been coaching her. DiBernardi just completed her 29th season as Wildcats coach.
"That's one of the greatest things of this whole thing," Prutzer said. "She knows what kind of pitcher I am, and I know that she will get me to be the best pitcher that I can be."
Prutzer won't sign a national letter of intent with Villanova because she won't be receiving athletic financial aid. Because Prutzer hasn't signed a binding letter, NCAA regulations prohibit DiBernardi from talking about her.
Prutzer, who also considered the University of the Sciences, is 14-4 with a 1.39 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 111 innings this season. She throws six pitches - fastball, change-up, drop, curveball, screwball, and riser - and in the past also mixed in a drop curve.
When she pitches, she wears an elastic brace on her right knee and a bulkier sports brace on her left knee.
"I said to Jordan the other week, and I do try as a coach not to think about this too much, but what if?" Methacton coach Cathy Miller said. "Here's a kid that I think is one of the better pitchers in the area. How good would she have been had she been healthy for two years?"
Prutzer pitched 45 innings for the Warriors as a freshman in 2010, going 4-1. That summer, she was playing center field for her travel team, Collegeville-based X-Treme Fast Pitch, when a batter lofted a shallow fly ball.
Prutzer ran in. The shortstop ran out. Prutzer tried to stop to avoid a possible collision, but her right foot caught in the ground and her right knee buckled.
"I just fell to the ground - it felt like slow motion - and I knew something was wrong," Prutzer recalled. "I was just so devastated. I kept saying, 'All I want to do is pitch.' That's all I wanted to do."
She underwent surgery in October 2010, came back the next summer, sprained the knee, and couldn't pitch for another three months. She resumed pitching lessons that fall.
Then came a gym class in February 2012. Students were trying to jump over a rope placed above the floor. To Prutzer, it was no big deal. "I used to do that stuff all the time," she said. Being careful, she set out to land on her good leg.
But the left knee gave out upon impact. She again went through surgery and rehab - made easier because she had endured it before.
Prutzer played first base but didn't pitch for the travel team last fall. Later that season, she began taking more pitching lessons from DiBernardi.
The knees withstood the work. The sessions continued. Eventually, Prutzer said, DiBernardi broached the subject of her joining the Wildcats.
Prutzer had wanted to go to Villanova, she said, ever since she took her first pitching lesson from DiBernardi.
Now, Division I was indeed happening.
"I think both injuries were major challenges," Prutzer said, "but I showed myself and I proved to myself that if I keep a positive attitude and I work hard that I can get back and I can still accomplish my dreams."