Zac Ball’s third-place finish in the hammer throw for the University of Ashland at the NCAA Division II track and field national championships May 22 wasn’t an ordinary one.
Sure, the Firelands graduate wound up and tossed the hammer as far as he could just like everyone else. And he clocked an impressive score — 204-7.
But his motion had a little something holding him back — two hernias and a tear in his abdomen.
He underwent surgery to repair the hernias five days after his All-America finish. He said the tear should heal with rest.
So while the junior fell short of his own lofty goals — to top the second-place finish he had at the NCAA Division II indoor national championships in the weight throw, a score of 70-8.5 — he still managed to fight through the pain and secure an impressive result.
“Out of the four All-Americans I’ve received so far, this one might not have been the sweetest, but it was definitely the most gratifying,” Ball said. “It made me feel a little bit better. Leading up to nationals, we figured out a way for me to train with the injury. We changed some things so I could throw through it.”
Ball said he wasn’t 100 percent for at least five meets leading up to the national event. He hurt his abdominal during a lifting session, when he heard his abs pop on the last lift for the day. The pain subsided for a week or two, but returned with a vengeance a few weeks later. He said it was hard for him to do anything, let alone throw.
That didn’t stop him from placing fourth in the hammer throw at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships on April 30. He finished with a score of 190-2.
But now that he has an offseason to heal, Ball can refocus on those lofty goals.
“I want to keep improving,” Ball said. “Winning a national championship would be pretty nice. I was close this year in indoors, a little further away in outdoors. I’m going into next year with that as my No. 1 goal.”
Ball will be a fifth-year senior next year and is an exercise science major with a minor in coaching and nutrition. He said he’d like to coach at the collegiate level given the right opportunity, but he also wouldn’t mind going into strength and conditioning.
Ohio Wesleyan junior Karli Sturgill placed 16th in the javelin throw at the NCAA Division III National Championships from May 22-24, hosted by Ohio Wesleyan. The Keystone graduate recorded a final throw of 125-07.
The Kent State Golden Flashes went two-and-out at the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, losing to host Louisville 5-0 on May 30 and then to Kentucky 4-2 on May 31. Junior Josh Pierce, an Avon graduate, pitched one inning of relief against Louisville, recording three outs with no strikeouts.
The right-hander made 16 relief appearances and tallied a 4.41 ERA, a 0-2 record and struck out 12 in 16.1 innings.
Sophomore outfielder Jacob Neuschaefer pinch ran for designated hitter Zarley Zalewski against Louisville, but did not score. The Elyria graduate hit .233 in 27 appearances, with nine starts, 11 runs and four RBIs.
Freshman left hander Eric Lauer — a Midview graduate — did not get to start or appear in either game, finishing his stellar debut with a 3.26 ERA, an 8-4 record and 64 strikeouts in 80 innings.