It's August 2010, and Kaitlin Stone is practicing with her traveling softball teammates. Suddenly an errant throw strikes Stone above her right temple, fracturing her skull and sending her pitching career into a tailspin.
Two steel plates, 13 screws and more than 200 stitches later, the Boone Grove senior says she's happy to be playing softball at all.
"I absolutely feel fortunate," Stone said. "I'm glad to be back out there."
In her second full season back from the injury, Stone is 6-4 in the circle with a 2.68 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. She's batting .449 with three doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs for the Wolves (13-11).
"Last year I was just rebounding from things," said Stone, who was 5-8 with a 2.38 ERA as a junior. "I finally came around at the sectional.
"This year, I feel like I didn't even have the injury."
Stone, regularly a pitcher, was taking part in first-baseman drills in foul territory when the errant throw struck her in the head.
"The whole thing was very odd," Kaitlin said. "I'm not normally over there."
Stone was taken first to St. Anthony's Hospital in Crown Point, then to the University of Chicago Hospital for an extensive surgery. Doctors cut an incision from ear to ear across her hairline, pulled back her skin, and repaired her skull.
Kathleen Stone remained at her daughter's bedside.
"It was the longest six days of my life," Kathleen said. "(Doctors) told us a quarter of an inch either way and she wouldn't be with us.
"The medical staff did an amazing job. I certainly believe in them."
Kaitlin originally believed she wouldn't return to the field, but she broke a smile when doctors told her she could be cleared to play after a five-month recovery period.
"I almost started to cry," she said. "I was just so worried to not be able to play the game I love. I didn't want to give it up."
Kathleen Stone was aware of her daughter's desire to return to the field.
"As a mother, I said no in the beginning," Kathleen said. "A lot of my friends and family thought we were crazy to let her play again.
"Her eyes light up when she reaches the field. I would rather see my child enjoy doing this then something she shouldn't be doing. I know how much it means for her to be out there."
Stone endured some painful headaches during the early part of last season, but she was informed they would subside after time.
"I wasn't allowed to do anything for five months," said Kaitlin, who was playing with the Wolves three months after her release. "The doctors said it would take some time for my body to adjust to the movement.
"If I didn't feel good, I would tell my coaches."
Kaitlin donned a protective mask for her circle appearances, and her father and Wolves assistant coach Bill Stone noticed some early nerves.
"Her first game, she was a little jittery," he said. "It was scary what did happen, and it took time for her to adjust. We just wanted to make sure everything was safe for her."
The injury didn't seem to hamper Stone at the plate, and she has a straight-forward explanation for her success.
"I'm right-handed," she said, "and my right eye faces the back of the backstop."
Last week, Stone signed a national letter of intent to play at the next level for South Suburban College.
"She's just made amazing strides to get where she's at," Wolves coach Ron Saunders said of his senior. "She's a very strong-willed person. When she sets her mind to something, she's usually going to do what she can to get the job done."