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Hot Seat: Ravenna softball’s Riley Homoly and her remarkable recovery from labrum surgery

Spunky Bulldogs sophomore playing as though she were never injured.

When Ravenna softball coach Dave Sherman made a trip to Hobby Lobby in November, it was intended to be a much more festive occasion.

Then the phone call came: Standout sophomore Riley Homoly informed her coach that she was undergoing labrum surgery on her throwing shoulder. In all likelihood, she would have to miss the 2024 softball season.

Five months later: Homoly is performing on the field like she never missed a beat, as if she were never injured. The spunky, 16-year-old daughter of Andrea Helsen and Bob Homoly is even better than before when it comes to her offensive production.

“I was at Hobby Lobby when I got the phone call about her having surgery,” Sherman recalled. “I’m not going to lie, I teared up a little bit.

“We went from thinking we were not going to have her at all to she’s swinging the bat really, really well. … That’s just incredible. She showed up for everything we had (in the offseason).”

From the fifth spot in the lineup last season as a freshman, Homoly hit .339 with 12 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 42 RBIs, 41 runs scored, and a 1.011 OPS in helping Ravenna to a 36-6 season and run to the Division 3 state semifinals.

In the pitcher’s circle, the right-hander fashioned a 6-0 record and 1.88 ERA. She went 8-for-8 in save opportunities, and she recorded a 40-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings as the Bulldogs’ No. 3 pitcher. When not toeing the rubber last year, Homoly split time at shortstop and first base.

This season, hitting No. 5 from the lineup again, Homoly was batting .500 with four doubles, one triple, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, and a 1.290 OPS through her team’s first 11 games. The Bulldogs are 10-2 overall, 5-0 in the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division, and ranked No. 7 in Division 3.

Homoly’s pitching appearances have been managed this season as she recovers from her surgery, but the player who dons jersey No. 5 is more than holding her own as a designated hitter who is also rotating in at first base.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“I think she’s a beast for being so dedicated and recovering so fast,” Ravenna junior teammate Addison Gillard said. “I know it took her a lot of work and I’m just proud of her for doing it.”

Homoly suffered a labrum tear last season when she dove into second base during the Grand Haven Tournament on May 13, although she and her family were not aware at the time that her shoulder was damaged. Homoly visited Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan and she began physical therapy immediately. It helped take away the pain enough for her to finish the 2023 season, according to her mother.

When fall ball arrived for her travel team, the pain worsened to the point where Homoly could not throw the ball. She made another visit with OAM and underwent an MRI. The results revealed a slight exterior tear in her labrum and it was up to Homoly whether she wanted to proceed with surgery or try physical therapy again. She opted to undergo surgery.

Homoly’s surgery took place on Nov. 27.

“When they got in there with the scope, the tear was much deeper than they had thought. She definitely would not have healed without surgery,” Andrea Helsen said. “They ended up putting four anchors in her shoulder to repair the tear. Pain was intense for the first few days but then very manageable.

“Her recovery consisted of wearing her sling for 12 weeks and staying completely inactive with that arm for that time period. It takes a total of 16 weeks for the tissue to completely heal to those anchors. It was a mentally challenging time for her. To be told she couldn’t do anything actively that long after training year-round like she does was a challenge.”

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

Helsen said that her daughter stayed positive and attended everything she could in the offseason with her teammates, working on the things she could, be it glove work or hitting with her off hand.

She never missed a workout session with her teammates.

Initially, Homoly was advised that her recovery could take five to eight months. As soon as she was able, she attacked her physical therapy program and began strengthening her shoulder. Helsen said her daughter is not 100 percent yet, but she’s pain-free and working to get her strength back.

Helsen called it “a journey.”

“I mean, (Homoly) said her arm didn’t even hurt and she was feeling great,” Ravenna junior teammate Emma Herremans said in astonishment after the Bulldogs’ doubleheader at Holton on April 9.

“I think it’s a blessing to know how quickly she healed and it’s nice to know that she’s taking this recovery very appropriately, I would say. She’s doing all of her stretches.”

Gillard said that Homoly is the type of player who leads by example. Homoly will make a play, then “she gets hype when she gets back in the dugout and gets everyone else hype, too,” Gillard said.

Sherman noted that he and Homoly routinely go back and forth giving each other grief in a playful way, further illustrating Homoly’s head-strong and sassy nature.

“We have a good time. I mean, this whole group, they’re a fun group. Just to be clear: Riley starts it most of the time,” Sherman said with a smile.

Said Herremans: “(She’s) one of a kind. She is one of our leaders. She does help lead the team. She’s very vocal. She’s grown up with me and it’s great to watch her be an amazing player, an amazing leader, person, personality. She has the mentality to fight and work hard.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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