Even with a torn labrum in her right shoulder, Emily Wood was sliding head-first into bases Monday night. The Pleasant Valley sophomore was diving for balls in the outfield.
“She’s fearless, just a competitor,” PV softball coach Jose Lara said. “She’s going to go after it. I can’t stop her from doing that.”
When Wood suffered the injury in early June diving for a ball at North Scott, there was concern she’d be lost for the season. After two weeks of extensive physical therapy, the all-stater has returned and provides the Class 5A 10th-ranked Spartans a weapon few other teams possess at the top of the order.
Wood recorded seven hits, stole five bases, scored four runs and knocked in four runs to help PV to a 10-3, 10-1 Mississippi Athletic Conference sweep over Davenport West at the West Athletic Complex.
The left-hander plans to finish out the softball season, play volleyball this fall and then undergo surgery that could force her to miss most of the indoor track and field season this winter.
“It kind of (hurts) a little bit, but the doctors told me it’d take another bad situation for it to happen again,” Wood said. “So I’m just going to go out there, leave it all on the field for my team, get any balls I can and just forget about it.”
PV (26-12, 14-4 MAC) lost eight games during Wood’s absence. Since she has returned, the Spartans are 11-2 heading into Saturday’s home regional semifinal against Bettendorf.
“She is huge for us and a great leadoff hitter,” senior second baseman Carli Spelhaug said. “She brings the small ball. And when she can steal bases and get into scoring position, it really sets us up. We all know one run can make a world of difference in a regional game.”
The Spartans had plenty of offensive contributions on this night. They had 31 hits in the two games against Erica Ralfs and Kaylie Caldwell.
Jessi Meyer, Peggy Klingler, Kaitlyn Drish, Bell Luebken and Spelhaug joined Wood with multiple hits in the opener. Luebken and Carly Lundry each had two hits in Game 2 while Wood recorded three.
Spelhaug blasted her seventh home run of the season in the first inning of the nightcap.
“Any time you’re hitting the ball and stringing them together, it definitely builds confidence,” Lara said. “I want them to go in thinking they can hit anybody. We had a heck of a weekend (in Iowa City), so we’re definitely at the right place at the right time.”
Wood is a significant reason for that.
Originally, doctors told Wood she would need surgery after the injury. Instead, she opted for two weeks of physical therapy.
“I was going twice a day, exercising at home every night and they finally let me play,” Wood said. “I was very excited about that.”
She showcased her offensive versatility. She bunted for hits on three occasions, had two other infield singles, smashed a double down the right-field line and also dumped one over the shortstop’s head.
“I can swing fine,” Wood said. “For me, the biggest thing is reading the defense and making the right adjustments.”
The two wins spurred PV to solo third place in the MAC behind Davenport Assumption and Muscatine.
West (16-20, 8-10) closes the regular season tonight at Fort Madison before opening regional play Thursday at home against Davenport Central.
The Falcons recognized their three seniors — Ralfs, Emma Lee and Taylor Utterback — between games. Caldwell had four hits in the doubleheader, including a 3-run homer in the opener.
“We have a lot of young players,” West coach Jim Weisrock said. “Even in high-pressure situations, they still have to make a good at-bat, create a good at-bat and watch some pitches. Sometimes, we get a little anxious and don’t have that quality at-bat when we need it.
“We told the girls afterward, ‘Did we learn anything from playing a really good team? If we keep learning from playing good teams here at the end of the year, we’re going to be in really good shape.”