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UCO's Kacie Edwards delivered biggest hit of all

Central Oklahoma slugger delivered a home run and big hit during Sunday's regionals despite a torn ACL.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 7, 2012

Kacie Edwards pulled a Kirk Gibson.

And she doesn't even know who he is.

You can forgive Edwards for that. She's not much of a baseball fan, and she wasn't even born when the Dodgers slugger hit that magical home run. And yet, it's impossible not to think of Gibson after what Edwards did over the weekend.

She hit her own I-don't-believe-what-I-just-saw home run.

“I can't believe it happened,” she said, wonder still in her voice a day later. “The last image I have in my mind is the ball going over the fence.”

The Central Oklahoma slugger has had lots of big hits this season. She leads NCAA Division II softball with 73 RBIs, which is also a school record, and is one of the main reasons that the Bronchos are having their best season in school history. Forty-two wins. Second in the country.

Still, nothing prepared her for what happened Sunday afternoon.

“It was like something out of a dream,” Edwards said.

The dream, though, started with a nightmare.

In UCO's regular-season finale, Edwards went for a pop-up between her spot at third base and the pitching circle. Right before she snagged the ball, she caught sight of the pitcher out of the corner of her eye.

Both were headed for the ball.

Headed for a collision, too.

Edwards tried to stop, but when she planted her left leg, her knee buckled. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament, sprained her medial collateral ligament and bruised her tibia. Her bones actually smacked into each other.

She collapsed to the dirt.

“I just wanted to stay in the fetal position,” she said. “I was bawling my eyes out, saying some words I probably shouldn't have.”

Edwards had experience with blown-out knees, unfortunately. She tore the ACL in her right knee when she was a junior at Yukon High. She knew the struggle ahead.

But with postseason play a week away, she wanted to try to play. She couldn't have surgery for a few more weeks, and she really couldn't do much more damage to injure her knee.

Doctors and trainers advised her against playing but didn't rule it out completely.

So, she spent the week leading up to regionals rehabbing and resting. Other than doing strengthening exercises two or three times a day, she stayed off her feet as much as possible, asking teammates for rides to class, sitting on the bleachers throughout practice, even sleeping with her leg elevated and an icing machine on it.

“I've basically been babied,” she said, laughing.

Her parents, for example, had to move her out of her on-campus apartment with the end of the semester last week. All she could do was watch.

“Not that I'm complaining,” she joked.

The goal initially was to try to be ready for super regionals, which starts this coming weekend. Edwards wasn't really thinking about playing during regionals this past weekend. She didn't even wear her uniform to the field on Friday, the first day of the tournament.

UCO won its first two games without her, but then on Sunday, it was shut out by Emporia State. It was the first time the Bronchos had been shut out all season.

Suddenly, UCO faced an if-necessary game and win-or-go-home scenario.

Edwards went to talk to her dad and sister after the first game. Cheering and encouraging her teammates for three days was all good and fine, but it wasn't helping them win ballgames.

“Do you think I should go ask her if I can hit?” she finally said of UCO coach Genny Stidham.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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