Ohio State then-junior Shelby Hursh in the pitcher’s circle at the 2016 NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: OSU athletics

Balancing academics and athletics is a typical struggle student-athletes face, but that balancing act doesn’t usually force a player to leave her team midway through a road trip and make a 2,000-mile round-trip flight between starts. This weekend, Ohio State senior pitcher Shelby Hursh did just that.

Friday night, Hursh pitched in the OSU softball team’s season-opening game against Central Michigan at the Aggie Classic in College Station, Texas. Shortly after the game, she boarded a flight back to Columbus for a graduate school interview for OSU’s Counselor Education Program. Immediately after the interview, Hursh flew back to Texas in time to pitch in Saturday night’s game against Lamar.

The travel didn’t seem to affect her game at all. Hursh pitched 12 innings over the weekend and gave up just one run on four hits with 12 strikeouts on her way to three wins.

To Hursh’s disappointment, however, the interview meant she would miss the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader — a game against No. 19 Texas A&M that afternoon.

“Obviously, I wanted to be here with my team,” Hursh said. “But it’s a top-10 program, they only admit 12 people and they have 200 applicants. So, I really wanted to give myself a shot.”

Hursh gave herself more than just a shot — she was accepted into the program. She heard the news when she broke team rules and answered her phone on the team bus as they traveled to the airport.

“It was one of the professors from the program,” Hursh said. “I was instantly like, ‘Oh my gosh, if he says I don’t get in, here I am in front of the whole entire team and I’m going to have to tell them.’”

Thankfully for Hursh, the call was good news and her teammates were eager to celebrate with her.

“We were super excited. She got the phone call on the bus and she was still on the phone call when we were cheering,” said junior outfielder Bailee Sturgeon. “We just started screaming, and then we had to quiet down for a second so she could finish the call.”

OSU coach Kelly Schoenly said she’s never had anything quite like Hursh’s wild weekend in her coaching career.

“I have had players miss practices for medical school interviews and job fairs or interviews,” Schoenly said. “But I’ve never been around when someone actually left the team, missed a game and returned back the same weekend.”

Sturgeon echoed that she had never experienced anything like that before, but said if anyone could handle the challenge, it was Hursh.

“I think you could really throw anything at Shelby (Hursh) and she’d be able to handle it,” Sturgeon said.

Hursh’s next challenge will be this weekend’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge when the Buckeyes head to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face off against Louisville and North Carolina. This time though, she’ll get to stay with the team between games.