STOCKTON — With fans pressed against the cyclone fencing, young and old applauding her every stride, South all-star Izabella Owen dashed one last time across the base paths.
That she could still run was a minor miracle.
Moments earlier, the Oregon State-bound shortstop fouled a ball of her knee, resulting in a stinging pain and the makings of a nasty bruise.
The former East Union standout chose to stay in the 28th annual High School All-Star Softball Classic at Delta College, closing out the at-bat and returning to the infield in a 9-7 loss.
Her perseverance was rewarded with an MVP award and scholarship from the United Way. She hobbled down the first-base line to receive the award from officials and pose for pictures behind home plate.
St. Mary’s ace Carley Morfey was also named an MVP after starting and later saving the North’s 9-7 victory.
“It’s an honor to just play with a bunch of ballers out here,” said Owen, who teamed with players from the Valley Oak, Mother Lode, Tri-City and Trans-Valley leagues, as well as Western Athletic Conference and Central California Athletic Alliance.
“Honestly, we’ve all worked hard. Everyone came out to practice and we jelled really quick. It’s great to be out here and play against other good players; it’s good competition.”
Owen, a fleet-footed former VOL MVP, reached base twice, stole three bases and flashed the leather early with a back-handed stab and putout. She scored one run, triggering a five-run rally in the fifth inning.
With the South trailing 5-0, Owen reached on an error and then promptly stole second and third. After Jim Elliot Christian’s Madilyn Sepp reached with a walk, Oakdale slugger Grace Green launched a three-run home run over the tree in left field to make it 5-3. Green is headed to Oklahoma on scholarship.
Argonaut’s Jayce Lucke tied the game with a two-run single, scoring Manteca’s Koryn Menasco (single), who reached base three times.
“We had to do whatever to get on base, score some runs, score some runs for our pitchers,” Owen said. “We got on base and Grace is just the perfect hitter to get score us in. As soon as she hit it, we all knew it was gone.”
Manteca Unified represented well in the loss, flooding the base paths. East Union’s Ally Roberts reached base three times, including two singles.
Roberts led off the sixth with a one-out single and then scored from first on an RBI single by Manteca’s Vanessa Lopez, who also reached twice.
Lopez enjoyed the chance to bond with her longtime rivals, but said it was “really weird” to bat behind a Lancer.
“At the end of the day, we’re all a team and we play together,” Lopez said. “It was pretty exciting to bring her in. … I was trying to bring in that run and score. Get the ball in play. Base hits are what win games.”
The North tested the fences at Delta College.
Stagg’s Ryenn Agbulos drove her first career home run over Roberts’ head in center field and Calaveras’ Haley Chaboya laced an RBI double into the gap in right-center. Stagg’s Jasmine Jennings punctuated a five-run second inning with a two-run single.
Calaveras’ Madison Wylie, Edison’s Trena Rathjen and Bear Creek’s Ashley Laughlin (double) also had run-scoring hits as the North never trailed.
Owen was shaken up in her final at-bat. She fouled a pitch from Morfey off her knee, the game's only scary moment. She hobbled along the first-base line but returned to the batter's box.
She popped out to short.
“I’ve always been taught to never give up. The game is bigger than yourself," Owen said. "You have to fight for the other people on your team; it’s not just all about you. So, at that point I was just like, ‘Suck it up and go out play.’”
The South also featured Lathrop’s Samantha Sales (walk) and Annalisa Garcia. Ripon’s Shay Furtado was selected to the South roster but did not play.