By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — It was a simple play, one that Methuen’s Becca Armstrong had completed hundreds, if not thousands of times.
In her first career home game at Merrimack College, the former two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star was chasing a foul pop behind the plate when her foot became lodged under the fencing. When Armstrong’s momentum carried her backwards while making the catch, her leg snapped.
“I knew I was hurt,” she said. “I don’t know if I knew it was broken right away, but I knew it was hurt.”
It didn’t take long for the diagnosis. After breaking her leg, she missed the rest of her freshman season (she only appeared in three games) and all of her sophomore season while rehabbing.
Armstrong made her long-awaited return behind the plate this spring. She has appeared in 23 games for the 20-19 Warriors and is batting .286 (16 for 56) with six runs and six RBIs.
Now, she finally feels back at home.
“Of course I missed it,” she said. “I probably missed it more than anything. Going through the rehab, there were a lot of questions. I always knew I’d play again, but you definitely question yourself and you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to be the same player once you come back from an injury like that.”
Because of the grueling nature of the position, she wasn’t sure whether she would be able to catch.
“There were people saying I wouldn’t be able to,” she said. “Part of me wanted to get back just to prove those people wrong. It was definitely motivation.
“I’m back where I want to be now. I obviously love the game, but I wanted to catch. That’s what I’ve always done.”
Since her return, she’s been nowhere but behind the plate.
“It’s awesome,” she said.
Throughout the entire process, the support of her teammates never wavered.
Despite playing just three games before suffering the injury, Armstrong always felt part of the program.
Just days following her injury, the Warriors embarked on a week-long road trip to the Tri-State area. The team was in constant contact with her.
“I love this team,” she said. “I always felt a part of it. They’re on the road going through games and they all let me know I was on their minds. They were sending me text messages just telling me to hang in there and everything would be OK. That was huge motivation for me to get back.
“They were supporting me so much I wanted to get back for them, so I could play with them.”
Armstrong was close to returning last season, but couldn’t get medical clearance.
“The trainers are incredible,” she said. “Whatever I needed, they were there for me. I’m glad (I don’t have to be in that room) so much anymore, but they were all great, helping me get the strength back and just that flexibility.”
A junior academically, she still has two more years of NCAA eligibility.
Once she returned this spring, it didn’t take long for Armstrong to find her groove.
“Looking back, it was a long road and it wasn’t all easy,” she said. “Being so close to being able to play last year but not getting cleared was tough emotionally, but being out there now I just forget all that. I’m finally back where I want to be.”