ELKHART — Apparently, Olivia Hess’ cruciate isn’t so crucial.
The Concord High School senior, playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, tore into one of the premier softball pitchers in the state while helping the Minutemen win the Class 4A Elkhart Sectional championship last week.
“This is a game I didn’t want to be my last,” Hess said after going 2-for-3 with an RBI single during Concord’s 4-2 upset win over Haley Nixon and the fourth-ranked Raiders on Friday, May 30. “I just played with heart.”
And with one good knee, anyway, helping the Minutemen (21-8) advance to a 7 p.m. regional championship Tuesday, June 3, at No. 3 Penn (25-4).
Hess tore her ACL at a practice in mid-April.
Yet, less than four weeks later, she was back in a game late in the regular season.
“The day (the doctor) told me I had to have surgery, I thought I was done,” Hess said of her softball career. “I thought it was over, but I just decided to push through it. I started doing the therapy, did everything I could to get out on the field of play.”
Hess began the season as a candidate to split time at first base, but returning to the field after her injury was not particularly viable, and not necessary with sophomore McKenzie Loge solidifying herself at the position defensively.
Still, Hess carried a strong stick, and wanted to continue to contribute that as a designated player for the Minutemen.
“I started with light practice, and then I started pushing myself further and further, and I know my limits,” Hess said. “If I exceeded them, then I stopped, and if I didn’t, I just kept going.”
Concord’s thankful she did. Hess also went 2-for-2 with an RBI double in the Minutemen’s 8-1 semifinal win over Warsaw. Her four hits over the two sectional games led the team.
“She deserves a lot of credit,” Concord coach Dawn Austin said of Hess. “She wanted to come back. At some point, she said, ‘Do you think I can get an at-bat?’ and I’m like, ‘What does the doctor say?’ Basically, she has to be careful with over-torquing.”
Another concern with utilizing Hess was base-running.
"I told her I gotta be able to know you can at least run to first base, but I was hoping, because that’s the kind of ability she has with the bat,” Austin said.
Obviously, Hess got to second base on that double against Warsaw. And once she’s on base, there’s the option of pinch-running, with one re-entry allowed.
Hess says she will likely attend IUSB and not play softball collegiately, making her last games for Concord even more meaningful.
She plans to undergo surgery on her knee during the summer.
Meanwhile, she’s using a brace, and putting up postseason numbers sure to make pitchers brace.
“Honestly, it feels great right now,” Hess said of her knee after the win over Northridge. “I just want to keep it going.”