Shortstop Leads TA Into Matchup With Bees
BRIDGEWATER — In Thursday’s 3A West Region semifinal win over Patrick County, Turner Ashby High School shortstop Alexa Sheets hit a home run in the top of the seventh inning — a two-run laser over the left-field fence at Liberty High School in Bedford that put the undefeated Knights up 8-0 as they rolled to a 9-0 win and a state tournament berth.
As Sheets, a 5-foot-4 junior who has committed to play softball at James Madison, passed third base, trotting off her fourth home run of the season, TA coach Laura Bowman just said, “And you’re back.”
“That’s the first thing I said to her when she passed there,” Bowman said. “Just because it’s been a rough, what, three weeks?”
Very. Three weeks ago, Sheets left the TA softball field in an ambulance.
Sheets said she doesn’t remember what happened when a Monticello baserunner tried to steal second on May 23, but Sheets has, through eyewitness accounts, pieced most of it together.
“I don’t remember, but from what I heard, I was on shortstop and a girl was stealing,” the 17-year-old Sheets said Friday afternoon during practice, the Knights’ last before today’s 3A West title game against the also-undefeated Brookville Bees. “And I dove for the ball — and the ball was on the right side of the bag, and I dove for it. But I was paying attention to the ball; I really had no idea about the runner, and we just collided head to head, and then, I was out.”
Other people have more violent versions of the collision that took out both Sheets and the Monticello runner, who later joined Sheets in that ambulance.
“When I first went out there, her eyes were rolling back in her head,” Bowman said. “I thought she was dead because I’ve never seen anybody knocked out before. … So, to see that, I seriously thought she was dead. So then, when she could respond and she couldn’t really move, I thought she was paralyzed.”
Olivia Cook’s version isn’t any better.
“I saw her fly up in the air,” said the Knights’ junior second baseman, who plans to walk on at JMU. “She came down, and her eyes were blinking really fast — they were closed but they were, like, fluttering, and that’s it.”
Sheet said she was out for about a minute and does remember a few things.
“I woke up, and they asked me what was the score, and I said, ‘Two to zero,’ and the score was 14 to zero,” she said.
She also remembers running toward second base, even if she doesn’t remember the reason.
“When I woke up, I thought I got hit in the face by the ball,” Sheets said. “I was looking for my mom. As soon as I woke up, I was looking for my mom.”
The collision left Sheets’ cheek swollen and destroyed her memory of the game. She didn’t fully regain her senses until she got to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a severe concussion.
“I opened my eyes and was looking around and I was really confused,” Sheets said. “… They were talking to me and stuff, and I didn’t remember that. And then, when I got into the ambulance, I actually figured out I’m in the ambulance; I’m going to the hospital.”
Sheets said this was her second hospital trip since January. A tractor trailer hit her Chevrolet Malibu. Sheets said she had a whiplash and a sprained neck and back as a result of the wreck.
The reason for the May 23 hospital trip cost Sheets three games — the entire Conference 29 tournament. Bowman said there also were five days of gradual work to get Sheets back to practice. It started with Sheets pedaling stationary bike for about 30 minutes.
Sheets’ first game back was in the quarterfinals of the regional tournament June 3, and Bowman has eased Sheets back into the lineup. Before the concussion, Sheets batted leadoff. Now, she’s hitting ninth, giving the Knights’ a formidable threat at the bottom of their lineup as they return to Liberty-Bedford today for the regional championship game.
They play slap-hitting Brookville (24-0) at 5:30 p.m.
TA (24-0), by making the title game, clinched a bid to the two-round 3A state tournament. But just making it isn’t enough for the Knights, who are three wins away from tying the program record for most wins in a season. The 2004 team — which won TA’s only state softball title — went 27-2.
“For one, I would never want to go into a game with the attitude that you don’t want to win it,” said Cook, whose team is seeking its first regional title since 2009 (TA beat Brookville) and sixth overall. “Just because it’s not do or die doesn’t mean I’m just going to be relaxed. And if we do win, we’ll play the second-place team in the other regional, which is good. And we want three championships, not just one or two.”
Sheets is batting .391 and leads the team with 13 stolen bases. She also has six doubles, a triple and 21 RBIs. Her on-base percentage is .487, and she’s slugging .703. She also had an early (and unintentional) test during the pregame infield practice of TA’s quarterfinal win over Lord Botetourt.
“I was trying to hit a ball to Cana [Davis] in center field, and it was line shot right at Alexa,” Bowman said. “Alexa was kind of standing toward the center of the field, and my stomach just turned. … She caught it fine, but I was doing everything I could to protect her. But she’s fine. … She just put her glove up. She was fine, and I was like, ‘All right. We’re OK.’”
And on Thursday, Sheets was, officially, back.