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Spotlight On...Brooke Sudduth
Posted On:
Friday, August 11, 2017
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Brooke Sudduth was featured in The Pantagraph, the newspaper in Normal, Illinois, where she played softball last week.

16-Under tourney: Parents' cancer doesn't strike out Tenn. pitcher

by Aug 3, 2017

NORMAL — When Brooke Sudduth gets in the circle and focused on the batter ahead of her, the Tennessee Crusaders pitcher is able to block out everything else in her life.

That's saying a lot.

The 16-year-old Sudduth has had to deal with not one, but both of her parents being stricken with cancer in the last four years. That may have rocked the world of some teens, but Sudduth has persevered and already accepted a scholarship offer to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga after she graduates from high school in two years.

"I think softball is more of my getaway from all the stresses of my life," said Sudduth, who is playing with the Crusaders in this week's USA Class A 16-Under National Championship. "It helped me get away with my friends. It was nice to get away and have that to rely on."

Brad Sudduth, who has a rare form of pancreatic cancer, is with his youngest daughter this week. He also serves as her pitching coach at Cascade High School in Wartrace, Tenn.

"It helped her mature early," he said. "She's had to deal with some tough stuff and made some tough decisions."

Brooke's mother, Debbie, was diagnosed with breast cancer three-and-a-half years ago when Brooke was in seventh grade. The family was still coming to grips with that when a year later Brad Sudduth found out about his cancer.  

Debbie Sudduth is now cancer free and beginning the school year this week at Cascade High School, where she is a math teacher. Brad Sudduth said he is still dealing with active tumors and takes a chemotherapy pill every day as part of his current treatment.

"It's nice having him here (at nationals)," said Brooke, who is making her first trip to Illinois this week. "I know if he's here I don't have to worry about him as much because I know what he's doing and can tell him stop doing something if I need to."

Brad Sudduth, 49, was in the hospital for two weeks, and on a ventilator part of that time, during Brooke's freshman high school season. That might have been the toughest time, especially with Brad Sudduth out of the mix calling pitches for his daughter.

Into that void stepped Kevin Costley, who is the Crusaders' coach. Brad Sudduth said having a familiar voice in the dugout helped Brooke get through his absence.

"I've had to learn to block out things because if I'm worried about everything else, I'm not going to do my job the way my team needs me to," said Brooke Sudduth, who shares Crusaders pitching duties with Costley's daughter, Alyssa. 

Through it all, Brooke Sudduth and her sisters — Shelby, 20, a junior at Middle Tennessee, and Bailey, 18, a freshman at UT-Chattanooga — leaned on their faith.

"It's kind of hard to get through things without God in your life," said Brooke. "We had to trust His plan was greater than what we wanted in life. Our church family was there for us. Our (Crusaders) softball family came to a lot of games when Dad was in the hospital. It was nice to have them there. Those are people I can rely on to get through things."

Sudduth has struck out about 600 batters in her two high school seasons, in which sister Bailey was her teammate. Coming into nationals with the Crusaders, Sudduth was 16-4 with 131 strikeouts in 110 innings. She plays first or third base when not pitching and had four homers entering the tourney.

When Brad Sudduth says he is "very proud of her (Brooke) and her two sisters," he's not talking about any softball exploits.

"They've grown up a lot quicker than they should have, but they did it. They handled it well. They kept on keeping on," he said. "Cancer is just an illness. It doesn't define who you are. You just have to deal with it. What defines you is how you handle adversity when it's thrown your way."

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