SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Alyssa Sharp will never forget what happened Sept. 16, 2018.
Then a sophomore player for Sullivan High's softball team, Sharp was going home from hitting practice when she was involved a car accident that forced her into a wheelchair and sent her into a months-long rehab. Sharp said she broke both of her legs and her jaw.
Sharp's season was over and she could only watch as the Eagles finished third in Class 3.
“The doctors told me rehab would be at least a year, but I was back playing in about five months," Sharp said. "Even over the summer, playing travel ball, I was doing rehab to get back to this. It's pretty huge for me, being here now. I was not missing this.”
Now a junior, Sharp spends most of her time as the designated player for the Eagles (25-6, No. 1 in the STLhighschoolsport.com small-schools rankings), who play Helias (25-5) in the Class 3 state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at Killian Stadium.
Sharp's mother, Salina Sharp, said she remembers the horrifying details of the accident's aftermath. But she also now has memories of her daughter's remarkable resilience.
“My husband was working in Arizona and I went for a short visit and that's where I was when I got the call,” Salina Sharp said. “Alyssa got to her phone after the accident and wanted a passerby (who came upon the accident) to call me. Through it all, with us coming so close to losing her, we're so happy that she gets to be a part of this. She's back on the field and doing what she loves. It's so hard to describe, but it is a good feeling.”
The rehabilitation and rapid recovery by Sharp has helped the Eagles on the softball diamond.
Not only has her feverish work to return from the accident been an inspiration, Sharp has produced in some key areas. She's hitting .237 with four doubles and 13 RBI. On defense, she's added four assists and a .875 fielding percentage during limited action at first base.
“She's a hard worker, she's got goals and she wants to come in (and help),” Sullivan coach Ashley Crump said. “She knew she missed the state tournament last year. The thing she's been saying is, 'I get to go this year.' For her not to only come here, but be in the starting lineup, is amazing.”
Sullivan senior shortstop Kloey Blanton said the road Sharp has taken has had an effect on those around her.
“She came and supported us at the end of the season last year, even though she couldn't play or anything, and it was so inspiring that she was there after what she'd been through,” Blanton said. “It's just been amazing that she came back this year and got to hit.”
While almost completely physically restored, Sharp said Sullivan's run to state has done a lot to help her heal mentally.
As crushing as it was not to be with the team on the field as Sullivan finished third in Class 3 last year, she's now ecstatic she's making up for lost time.
“This is really special and it means a lot, all of this emotion is coming back to me from not being here last year,” Sharp said. “I think (being at state) has helped me a lot.”
Sharp said that while she has persevered, it hasn't been for a lack of caring and support from those around her within the softball program and the Sullivan community, itself.
“The journey has always been hard, but it's been worth it,” Sharp said. “I've accomplished so much and I feel really good because, after the accident, I was at a really low point in my life. Now, I'm at a real high point because of the work I put in and the people surrounding me here.”
No matter how Saturday plays out, Salina Sharp said her daughter's strength and courage in the face of near tragedy has made the situation more palatable.
“Through everything she has been through, she has continued to look on positive side,” Salina Sharp said. “She's tried to stay positive and realize that you can't always choose what happens to you. She's always looked for the positive. She is a strong girl.”