Caledonia senior stands tall in the face of multiple injuries
Jenison – Just when Ashley Cross thought she had put a frustrating string of injuries behind her, there was the hard slide and subsequent awkward reach during a game at Stevensville Lakeshore last week.
In a flash, the Caledonia senior outfielder knew that the black cloud which had followed Cross her entire high school career had returned.
"I knew it was just another thing," said Cross in between games of Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep of Jenison that wrapped up an OK White Division title for the Scots.
Injuries have slowed but hardly ended an outstanding softball career for Cross, who missed all but three games of the Scots’ run to the state final a year ago with her third dislocated knee.
Three games into that season her right knee gave way after she had planted it on an attempted steal. She had previously suffered two other dislocated knees on a freak play at third base in a summer travel game and after making a spin move in the last basketball game she ever played a couple years ago.
Cross had been named honorable mention all-state in softball as a sophomore in 2014 before the third knee injury cost her the 2015 season. Her sophomore season included becoming just the 26th player in state history to collect at least 21 doubles in a season in addition to hitting nearly .500.
The latest injury at Lakeshore came when she over slid the bag on an attempted stolen base. When she reached back to grab the base, she suffered a strained shoulder that left her able to hit but unable to throw overhand. She’s served as the lineup’s extra player, including going 4-for-7 with two doubles and four RBIs in a 14-6 and 10-0 sweep of Jenison, undefeated in division play before Tuesday.
While some players would have become discouraged over continuing their softball careers, Cross refused to buckle.
"I’ve been playing softball since I was 5. I’ve been through it multiple times," she said of battling injuries. "It would be easy to say, ‘Oh great, here’s another one.’ I just know I’m going to have to live with it."
Cross has returned to play a critical role for the Scots, now 21-5 overall while finishing 10-0 in the White. She batted .520 in the conference; .420 overall.
The worst part of battling the injury bug isn’t dragging oneself to the twice-a-week visits for three months for therapy. For Cross, it was missing the excitement of being part of a team that reached the state championship a year ago. She attended all practices and didn’t miss attending even one game, but it wasn’t the same as being a contributor on the field.
"Watching, especially in the tournament, was tough. Missing the first couple tournaments was okay, but when we met our first goal of winning our first regional, that’s where I wished I could be playing, to be part of it," she said. "But knowing I had another year left, I fought back."
Cross, who will play at Lansing Community College next season, said she was completely healthy physically until the latest injury, but admits the threat of another injury is never far away.
"It’s definitely in the back of your mind, in the little moves you make," she said. "But you work through it. I’m not going away."
Caledonia coach Tom Kaechele said Cross has multiple traits that enabled her to bounce back.
"She’s mentally very strong," he said. "She’s tough on herself and wants to do well. She’s worked extremely hard to become a good player. She is a vocal leader who also leads by example. She doesn’t take any shortcuts. She’s like an assistant coach out there."