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High school pitcher returns to mound after cancer for a no-hitter

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Walker Smallwood, a 17-year-old student at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Kentucky, always dreamed of pitching in the pros. Then he started posting some very disappointing numbers: six surgeries, six chemotherapy cycles, 24 treatments and 18 hospital stays. 

The promising lefty was diagnosed with rare bone cancer in his leg in 2018. He’s now in remission, but his baseball career has passed.

“It was pretty devastating,” his mom, Pam, said. “He just kept asking, ‘Can’t I just pitch?’ And we kept saying, ‘No, you just really can’t.'” 

“At the time I guess I was just kind of in denial, because my whole life, day in and day out, was built around baseball and sports,” Smallwood said. 

Walker Smallwood returned to the mound to pitch a final game after a rare bone cancer forced him to give it up. 

Beth Wulfeck Photography

His left leg became too fragile for him to play, so he resigned himself to games of catch. But before stepping off the mound for good, his parents and coach recently decided to let Smallwood start one last game for old time’s sake.

“What we had agreed to was maybe an inning, a few batters,” Pam said. 

Smallwood added: “Say you did it, have some fun, and then that’ll be it. Obviously, that’s not what happened.”

Here’s what did. 

In the first inning, Smallwood threw a strike — quite a few, actually. In fact, he did so well they decided to let him keep pitching, at least until he gave up a hit, which never happened. 

Smallwood threw a no-hitter, striking out all but two batters and tying a school record.

“When the last strike came, I was just in denial all over again. I was like, that didn’t just happen,” he said. 

“I was in tears, most of the stands were in tears – just one of those special moments that we’ll cherish forever,” Pam said. 

Smallwood may never play again — the risk of injury is too great, the leg is too weak. He’s actually fine with that now because who needs a World Series ring when you’ve already taken on your greatest rival and gone undefeated.


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