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James Buchanan sophomore is playing softball for the first time in five years. Wochit by Shelly Stallsmith

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If you look at James Buchanan's Lizzie Pittman on the softball field or in the dugout during a game - you'll notice a few things right away.

First, you'll see her long arms and legs - the perfect combination for a strong pitcher. Then you'll notice her infectious smile. Her boisterous giggle, and her love for the game.

At first glance, you'd never guess that Pittman, a first-year varsity player for the Rockets, has struggled with medical issues nearly her entire life.

But that won't keep her off the diamond anymore.

Pittman is back on the field after five years of chronic pain due to osgood-schlatter disease, which causes irregular bone growth. And now, just a few months before her 16th birthday, Pittman has nearly lost her hearing entirely.

Troy Pittman, Lizzie's father and James Buchanan softball coach said the family has been searching for answers for Lizzie's hearing loss for more than six months. Originally, doctors said her condition was connected to osgood-schlatter, and that the bones in her ears fused together, but tests have since indicated that everything looks normal. So the mystery continues.

"We've been fighting to get a diagnosis and no one can come up with one," Troy Pittman said. "We are going to Pittsburgh and hopefully the children's hospital out there can give us something. She's a trooper. She went from hearing to not hearing so fast, and as a pitcher that is very difficult."

She's worked through the pain in her joints, and has found a way to live with her hearing loss to become the team's No. 2 pitcher. Pittman boasts a 5-3 record with a 2.76 ERA and has racked up 27 strikeouts for the Rockets. She maintains good grades as a sophomore at James Buchanan and is helping the softball team in anyway she can.

"At the beginning of the season, we had one pitcher Jenna (Mongold), and she can't throw every inning," Troy Pittman said. "I ask Lizzie if she wants to play every year, and she's always answered, "Dad, I hurt," - but this year she wanted to try it.

"She was on a 10U team playing in a championship game for the Suburban league the last time she pitched, so for her to come out here and do what she's doing years later, it's great."

"I loved to pitch when I was little, and I still love it. I'm glad to be back," Lizzie Pittman said. "Most of the time I'm really nervous out there because I want to execute everything perfectly, but I have trouble hearing the plays and what the team says behind me."

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But Pittman has a mentor in Mongold, and a solid catcher in front of her in Maria Burkett.

"The pitching part kind of came naturally, but the fielding is different and really fast paced," Pittman said, "but Jenna has really helped me, and Maria is a really good catcher. They tell me where the play should be going, and in the dugout they help me with the cheers and everything."

"For someone to go through what she has, she's coping with it very well," Troy Pittman said. "She would sit at home in bed and cry it hurt so bad, and now with her hearing she really only can read lips, but she's a trooper and they treat her like any other kid. We have a young team and I'm excited to see what they can do with a little bit of experience."

The Lady Rockets finished off their regular season with a 3-1 win over Littlestown and is in good position to make it to the District 3 Class 4A tournament. And with Pittman, Mongold, Burkett and a host of other underclassman leading the team for the next two years, James Buchanan is in good hands.

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