The red mark on Valley Center pitcher Ashlyn Jacobs’ neck will likely fade in a short time.
The third-place medal she collected for leading the Hornets past Mill Valley 10-2 in the Class 5A softball tournament on Friday will be a more lasting keepsake.
Trying to help Valley Center bounce back from an 8-2 semifinal loss to eventual champion Shawnee Heights, Jacobs, a senior, was on the ground in the top of the first after Mill Valley leadoff batter Peyton Moeder hit a line drive that struck her on the lower left portion of her neck.
Jacobs appeared dazed, but stayed in the game and retired the next 11 batters on her way to a six-hitter.
“At first, I thought I was going to have to go out of the game,” Jacobs said. “It kind of just shocked me, I’d say. But after that, when the trainer came out, I figured I could get up and I’d be fine.”
Valley Center (21-4) made things easier for Jacobs by scoring eight runs – all with two outs – on seven hits in the second inning. The right-hander contributed a single and a run as the Hornets sent 12 batters to the plate against Mill Valley’s Lauren Florez and Shelby Bonn.
Meanwhile, Jacobs rolled with the exception of a brief stretch in the fourth, when Mill Valley (14-11) both of its runs on four consecutive hits. She recorded 16 flyball outs.
“You could tell she was hurting, and that was really big of her because who knows what we would have had to do there,” Valley Center coach Corey Jones said. “That was big for her to come back in and settle down and get some outs.”
Valley Center, which defeated defending champion Topeka Seaman 5-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinals after losing to the Vikings each of the last two seasons, built a 2-0 lead against Shawnee Heights in the semfinals. But the T-Birds rallied against Kaylee Burnett as all nine players in the lineup hit safely.
The Hornets’ offense took center stage in the third-place game. Third baseman Ashley Thorne had three hits and three RBI and right fielder Reagan Fischer added two hits, including a two-run double that capped Valley Center’s big inning.
Valley Center’s defense contributed, as well. Center fielder Wylie Glover robbed Mill Valley’s Lilly Blecha of a hit with a diving catch in the seventh.
“It’s awesome to come here and play three games,” Jones said. “Showing up for two hours, you lose, you go home, you don’t feel like you were part of it.
“It was really fun to play all these games.”
2 6 2
10 12 0
W: Jacobs. L: Florez.
2 5 2
8 11 2
W: Petefish. L: Burnett. HR: Shawnee Heights, Wellshear.