The Southeast Missouri State softball team suffered a huge blow before getting its 2010 schedule started.
Ace pitcher Giana Zimmerman, runner-up for Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year in 2009 as well as a second-team all-OVC pick, is out for the season after having shoulder surgery.
Southeast coach Lana Richmond said the injury was to Zimmerman's left -- or nonthrowing -- shoulder. She had trouble with it last year but played through it.
However, Zimmerman continued to be plagued by shoulder problems and finally underwent surgery in late December. She will receive a medical redshirt and still have three years of eligibility left.
"It's not in her pitching shoulder, so that's a plus," Richmond said. "The surgery was a success and she should be fine [next season]."
Zimmerman had a dazzling rookie season, going 19-9 with a 2.42 ERA and 23 complete games in 27 starts. She allowed just 148 hits in 185 innings and struck out 184. She struck out the second-most batters in Southeast single-season history and tied for fifth on the wins list.
"It's definitely a blow to us, when you lose a 19-game winner as a freshman, a kid that pitched every game in the OVC tournament," said Richmond, whose squad opens the season Thursday at Jackson State in Mississippi. "For our game, a pitcher can take you a long way."
Zimmerman helped take Southeast to the program's most wins since 2000 as the Redhawks went 29-21 overall and a second-place 16-8 in the OVC's regular season.
Southeast then nearly earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 1999, coming within two outs of capturing the OVC tournament title before falling in the finals.
Junior Whitney Dupuis (7-8, 5.75 ERA) and sophomore Stephanie Barnes (3-4, 5.22) will shoulder the pitching load in Zimmerman's absence. They accounted for the team's other wins in the circle last year.
"Dupuis is experienced and Barnes got a taste of it as a freshman," Richmond said. "They've worked extremely hard and they own the circle for us this year.
"They're different than Zimmerman. She had a load of strikeouts. They're more ground ball, fly ball type pitchers. We're going to have to play defense behind them and also score some runs."