American Heritage High School, Florida
It was a little over 2 months ago, 2024 elite Right-Handed Pitcher Aubrey Wurst, at a routine doctor’s appointment, was given shocking news. She was told she had a massive tumor in her abdomen. Sitting in a hospital room, wondering what her future might hold as she prepared to have the basketball size mass removed. Would she be able to return to the sport she loves? If so, how would the surgery affect her?
Fast-forward 36 days later, her questions were answered. We caught up with Aubrey tonight and asked her about the last 5 weeks and her improbable return to the circle.
“I was scared that day” (surgery day), Wurst said. “I was pitching right up until the days before surgery and I remember telling my dad that I wanted to pitch as much as possible because I wanted to remember what it felt like. Just in case for some reason I couldn’t do it again.”
- Aubrey Wurst
Aubrey’s doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida told her that she should forget about her high school season, to just focus on her recovery and summer travel ball season with her Tampa Mustangs - Seymour team.
However, anyone who knows Aubrey knows that telling her to give up on something just wasn’t in the cards. This top-shelf elite Right-Handed Pitcher, Ranked #20 in the Legacy & Legends Elite Top 200 rankings for the class of 2024, had other plans!
The surgery went perfectly, and the tumor was removed successfully. “My surgeon, Dr Juan Calisto, was truly amazing! The absolute best! He listened to me and understood how passionate I am about softball” Wurst said.
After examining Aubrey’s scans extensively, he figured out a way to remove the 8lb
mass without cutting her abdominal muscles. Something that would prove invaluable to the young fireballer’s recovery in the coming weeks.
Just 2 weeks after surgery, Aubrey was cleared to resume light exercises. The day she was cleared, she and her trainer tailored a workout routine that didn’t involve her core, but still allowed her to start recovering. “Dom (Dom Simieli of Wasserman Strength) is just awesome. He pushed me, but also made sure I wasn’t doing anything I shouldn’t be doing. My workouts were actually pretty intense at first, and when I would get tired he would push me to do more.”
At only 4 weeks post-op, a follow-up visit with Calisto resulted in Aubrey being cleared to resume normal activities, and more importantly, begin pitching again.
Just 8 short days later, Wurst found herself returning to the circle for her American Heritage HS team. Her “happy place” as she calls it. “I just love pitching. I can’t fully explain it. I love being on an island in that circle. I always want the ball! I love being in control of the game and when I step out there, I just want to dominate.” The original plan was for her to pitch on Thursday, but when that game was cancelled, her start was moved up to Wednesday, 36 days post-surgery.
It was not the ideal game to come back with. She was tasked with facing a Suncoast team who boasted a .368 team batting average through 20 games.
“That afternoon, my dad kept asking me if I was ready. If I really wanted to come back so soon,” Wurst admitted. “I kept telling him, I’m ready.”
- Aubrey Wurst (before her first game post-surgery)
Aubrey Wurst with Centerfielder Morgan Katz before the game
The plan was for Aubrey to throw 2-3 innings and just get her feet wet. What followed was somewhat of a storybook night.
After retiring the leadoff batter on a ground ball to first base, not a single Chargers batter put the ball in play the rest of the way. Wurst finished with a complete game (5 inning run rule) No-Hitter, tallying 14 Strikeouts to only 1 Walk. She only threw 73 total pitches, and looked comfortable from start to finish, appearing to get stronger as the game progressed.
We asked her how it felt to be back out on the field after the layoff. “I felt like me being out for surgery, I was letting my teammates down. So I made it a goal of mine to get back to pitching before the high school season ended. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know if it was realistic, but once I started recovering, it became more and more possible. I remember saying that when I had this surgery, it was only going to motivate me to come back stronger. It made me remember how much I love this game. When something that you love is taken away, it hurts. But it’s so much sweeter when you get it back and going through what I went through, I’m blessed. I’m healthy now. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. So I have a new outlook on adversity and on life. When things aren’t going my way, and they won’t always go my way, I can lean on what I went through. It reminds me that if I struggle, if I give up a homer, or walk a few girls, I’ve been through a lot tougher stuff than that.”
For Wurst, Wednesday night is a night she won’t soon forget. “It was incredible. A dream come true. Just being out there was enough, but the way the game played out, I can’t really explain it. My velocity was good but I’m still not back to where I was pre-surgery. That will take a little more time. I knew that going into the game. So I relied on my screw, rise and curve tonight, and my spins were really good. I knew I couldn’t overpower everyone, so I had to hit spots and be a smart pitcher.”
American Heritage High School Head Coach Janae King (nee Deffenbaugh) (UCLA 1992-1994 and 1992 National Championship) shared her views of Wurst's return performance.
"We couldn’t be happier as a team to have Aubrey back and it could not have come at a better time. We are heading into districts and the speed and confidence she brings to the circle changes the dynamics of our team. Her performance last Wednesday against Suncoast is further proof, it was like she hadn’t skipped a beat. To come back after having major surgery and to throw a no hitter is not only impressive but a testament to her character and drive. Aubrey is one of the most dedicated, determined, hardworking pitchers I have seen since my days at UCLA. All of our pitchers work hard and have contributed significantly but with Aubrey in the circle we can play less conservative, focus on hitting and take more risks on the bases. In addition, Aubrey is an incredible leader who leads by example, we could not be more grateful that she is healthy and back to doing what she loves."
With an attitude like this, Aubrey Wurst continues to impress us. Her future is bright and we look forward to watching what she has in store going forward. Any college coaching staff that wants an elite Ace in the circle, needs to have this outstanding ballplayer and amazing young lady on their 2024 Prospects Watchboard.
We will continue to report on Aubrey's progress going forward.
Please feel free to Follow her on Twitter: @WurstAubrey and us @LegacyLegendsS1