Pitchers threw their fair share of rise balls and drop balls this weekend, just as stages of life go through peaks and valleys.

Softball teams locally and from around the state converged on the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Friday and Saturday for the second annual Hits for the Cure event.

One of the worst phrases one can hear is, “you have cancer,” whether it’s told to a relative, friend, teacher or yourself.

For Metamora players and coaches, this weekend was about much more than softball. They wore pink shirts and bows in honor of science teacher Monica Tryner, who underwent a double mastectomy on Thursday in her battle with breast cancer.

“She did well in the surgery and got through it, so we’ve been thinking about her a lot this week,” Metamora coach Deric Linder said.

Metamora junior Maddie Martin — friends with junior softball players Sarah Morse and Maddie Case — has a brain tumor. Martin loved playing softball and hockey, but stopped playing softball after eighth grade.

“I think it’s more like we’re playing for her,” said Case. “She’s always been cheering for us all the time so having someone that we have there for us puts it in perspective.”

Notre Dame graduate Chloe Petersen founded Hits for the Cure four years ago to combine her loves of softball and charity. Petersen was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor at the age of 1.

Peterson's mission is to strikeout childhood cancer. Thirteen teams — Alton Marquette, Brimfield/Elmwood, Bloomington Central Catholic, Canton, Dunlap, Farmington, Illinois Valley Central, Marengo, Metamora, Morton, Peoria Christian, PND and Quincy Notre Dame – competed in Peoria this weekend and are raising money through pledges for each hit.

Canton, Peoria Christian, Marquette, QND and Marengo are new to collecting pledges this year. The University of Illinois softball program raised $8,000 for the charity in their first year participating.

“I think (our growth) shows the great platform we have and, obviously, for the Slugger complex makes teams want to come play here, too,” said Petersen.

Local teams visit the St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Peoria to meet some of the patients and spend some time hanging out with them.

“It was amazing just being able to see all the kids and how they interact while you’re there and how we can come in and make it better and just realize what we get to do out here (play softball) and what they don’t get to do,” Dunlap senior Clara Fitzpatrick said. “It makes it really special because I’ve dealt with cancer in my family, and my friend Bailey has dealt with cancer in her family. Just to come together and all realize what they have to actually go through just makes it better that we can put a smile on their face.”

Thank you god for putting little miss Jacie in our lives today and her family’s everyday❤️ she’s such a sweet blessing!pic.twitter.com/QcGeKdytXP

— Clara Fitzpatrick (@cfitzpatrick22)April 25, 2018

Linder believes kids now have a better perspective on life than 15 to 20 years ago. Metamora's Morse emphasizes that point based on what she’s learned from her friend, teacher and annual St. Jude visit.

“Don’t take your opportunities for granted, because there are kids out there who can’t play," Morse said. "If we get to play, (we) always play our hardest and don’t look down after a mistake. Never put yourself down because you get to play; next play, next ball. Take life as it comes because we can’t always do that.”

As a perfect pitch on the corner got called a ball, or a bang-bang call went the other way, players understand that there is more to play for this weekend, and everyone is better for that.

Five-year-old Bentley Bockover and 9-year-old Shayla Schielein are St. Jude patients who threw out pitches at Petersen Hotels Field on Saturday as players, coaches and fans alike cheered them on.

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Teams are continuing to take pledges and donations throughout the season. New for this year is digital giving, where people can make donations to their preferred team at pledgeit.org and searching for their team.

Petersen said she has several new teams committed for next year, but hopes to expand even more locally and across new high school conferences around the state.

“I’d say the next step is to hit the universities,” she said. “We’re looking to incorporate the Illinois colleges.”

And she hasn’t ruled out taking her charity to her high schools in her college home state of Texas, where she is a junior at Texas Christian University.

For more information on how to get involved with Hits for the Cure, as a team or volunteer, contact Petersen at hitsforthecure@gmail.com.

Aaron Ferguson is a sports reporter for the Journal Star. He can be reached at aferguson@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.