Striking our cancer

Lady Bulldogs host cancer awareness game

Beloved ZHS teacher Joey Galyan stood proudly in the pitchers’ circle on the girls’ softball field. His only task was to throw out the first pitch for Thursday night’s Strikeout Cancer game against Land O’ Lakes.

Galyan, who has been battling cancer for the last three years, was surrounded by Lady Bulldog players and their family members. With a tear in his eye, the former ZHS girls’ volleyball coach, fired that first pitch to Isabella Rivera to the cheers from the largest softball crowd of the season.

The Strikeout Cancer game is an annual cancer awareness game between the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Gators. The game rotates location with the 2023 game to be held at Land O’ Lakes High School.

For Galyan, the game had more meaning.

“The girls asking me to do that touched my heart,” a tearful Galyan said. “I broke down when they asked me a week ago. Just to be recognized by those girls is amazing. It is such an honor. I may have cancer, but I am beyond blessed.”

Coach Galyan has a place in the hearts of many of the Lady Bulldogs.

“He’s been our lives since elementary school,” said senior Brooke Lea. “There was no doubt who we would have throw out the first pitch.”

ZHS players brought their “warriors” onto the field for a ceremony prior to the game. The warriors are those who fought or who are fighting cancer.

Senior Izabella Mathis was joined by her grandmother, who had cancer surgery just two months before her granddaughter was born.

“If my Memaw wasn’t here to witness everything in my life, I don’t know how my life would be,” Mathis said. “Me and her are really close. This event is very important to me.”

Following the pregame festivities, the game ensued with the Lady Gators handing the Lady Bulldogs a 16-1 loss in a game called after six innings after Land O’ Lakes scored eight runs in the final inning to halt the game on the 10-run mercy rule.

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