Freeport’s Borghol overcomes back issues to make triumphant softball return

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021 | 7:33 PM


Maya Borghol hit a home run in a March 23 scrimmage against Kiski Area.

The trip around the bases, the Freeport senior center fielder said, was confirmation the power she displayed during a breakout freshman season still was there.

Lingering issues after back surgery in 2018 took away most of her sophomore year. Then, uncertainty over wanting to continue with high school softball and the covid cancellation of the 2020 season kept her away.

But Borghol is back and hoping to make an impact for the Yellowjackets, who are 1-2 overall after Wednesday’s 9-8 loss at Mars.

“I didn’t think I still had the power I did before the surgery,” said Borghol, who went 2 for 3 with two singles and an RBI in Wednesday’s game. She also drew a walk.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hit a home run again. It gave me great confidence to know that I could.”

“This team has a lot of potential to be really good this year. It all comes down to communication and working together. We are seeing a lot of good things, but there is still room to grow. That is what makes it fun.”

Borghol batted .405 as a freshman, leading Freeport with eight stolen bases and finishing second on the team with three home runs and third with 14 RBIs. She helped the Yellowjackets to a 13-2 record, the Section 1-3A title and a spot in the WPIAL semifinals.

“I was happy to know my coaches felt I was good enough to play and start right away,” said Borghol, who began playing softball at age 8 when she moved with family to the United States from Lebanon.

“My teammates were really welcoming to me. It really gave me a boost of confidence.”

Borghol said her welcome-to-varsity moment as a freshman came in hitting a home run against Deer Lakes that helped propelled the team to a 10-4 victory.

“I had played travel ball before getting into high school and had seen good pitching, but not where I was facing girls two or three years older than me,” Borghol said. “So I wasn’t sure how I would do. It was a good feeling to know I was able to do well right away and help the team.”

Borghol’s strong freshman year turned into trying time that summer as softball was put on hold.

She suffered a quad strain at an Ohio Outlaws recruiting showcase tournament.

The pain persisted, which led to her pediatric surgeon suggesting an MRI on her back.

That is when Borghol was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis — a slipping of the vertebra — and a herniated disc in her lower back.

Surgery stabilized the issue with screws and two metal rods were inserted into her spine.

Borghol went through extensive rehab and returned for her sophomore year in a pair of scrimmages. However, the pain returned, and she missed most of that season.

“I think I probably came back too soon,” said Borghol, who then was diagnosed with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome.

After several weeks of rest and physical therapy, she came back and played in Freeport’s loss to Ellwood City in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

Because of all the issues with her back, Borghol said she opted not to play last year.

“I thought a lot about my future with softball. It was very frustrating,” Borghol said.

“I was thinking that the pain and discomfort always would be there. I didn’t think I would get over it.”

But she had a change of heart last fall.

“I don’t exactly know what struck me to want to play again, but I did miss playing,” Borghol said. “I got a lot of encouragement from my mom and my teammates. I am 100% happy that I decided to play again.”

She said there was a little bit pain during the first couple of weeks, but she said she is learning how to manage it through additional stretching exercises and knowing when to rest.

“I know my body,” Borghol said. “I know if I hurts whether I actually did something to it or if it’s just that my muscles aren’t used to something. I can tell the difference.”

Veteran Freeport coach Sam Ross said he’s happy to have Borghol playing this season.

“It was great to hear she wanted to come back, and I told her to do what she could do,” he said.

“She is such an asset to the team. The more reps she gets, the more confidence she gets. With surgery like she had and what was done, there’s always that concern with things like sliding into a base, getting hit with a ball or the rotation that comes with swinging the bat. But she seems to be overcoming a lot of that.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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