Battery Creek High School softball players and Tori Hill’s other friends and family gathered in the reserved room at Sake House in Beaufort for a surprise party.
Dolphins coach Stephanie Cox warned the party not to jump out and scare her senior third baseman. Hill was preparing to have surgery to implant a pacemaker. She has dealt with Long QT syndrome her whole life. The condition causes her heart rate to dip dangerously low, especially when she sleeps. The fear that was that Hill one day would not wake up. She underwent surgery Dec. 23 and was back on the softball field Feb. 4, the day after tryouts.
Hill was recognized Tuesday during a ceremony recognizing her decision to play softball at University of South Carolina Salkehatchie. “We thought she was going to be out longer,” Cox said. “She’s taken her recovery like a champ and is back out there with us with no restrictions at all. “Hill grabbed the attention of Salkehatchie coach Kenneth Bellamy at a travel tournament in Hardeeville. Her travel coach, Bob Layman, helped put her in touch. A visit to the campus went well, and Hill chose the school over Charleston Southern, Armstrong Atlantic and USCB. “I got a softball offer, and I love softball,” Hill said. Hill has played varsity since eighth grade, the past three years for Cox, who was her private pitching coach before that. Cox said she can play Hill anywhere in the infield.
The Dolphins are excited. They plan an undefeated run in Region 6-AA. Hill’s versatility is an asset, Cox said. The relationship between coach and player is a personal one, and Cox keeps an eye on Hill on the field to try and recognize any worrisome signs.Hill has been hospitalized “two or three” times in the past year, none while playing softball. Her heart rate can hover at 19 to 21 beats per minute. The condition has made her weak and shaky and constantly tired, she said. She came close to fainting the day of her surgery and on Christmas Day, after she had returned home. But she hasn’t had any more emergency trips to the hospital — only checkups. The pacemaker’s success will be evaluated after sixth months and after that, Hill might require additional surgery to address nerves that might be causing the irregular heartbeat.
A GoFundMe account started by a family friend for Hill’s hospital bills raised almost $1,400. The page was shared 300 times, with more than 30 donors. Hill’s father is a member of a motorcycle club that plans a charity run in March. “Loved, of course,” Hill said of the feeling of being supported. “I’m cared about by a lot of people.”
BY STEPHEN FASTENAU