COLUMBIA — The only thing you could hear was the faint voices of the trainers; every other person in attendance was a silent onlooker.
Trainers, umpires and the coaching staff crowded around the pitcher's mound, where Valerie Teter, the senior co-captain for the Columbia College softball team, lay face down.
“I thought she would get back up at first,” freshman baseman Marli Hayes said.
Senior Kacey Rehagen remembered the last time Teter was hurt.
“Sophomore year, she went down with an ankle injury, and I was just like, oh my gosh, not again,” Rehagen said.
This time, Teter had been struck in the face by a line drive. Blood was flowing, and her nose was broken and turned sideways. Eventually, Teter sat up and paramedics loaded her onto a stretcher. She held a towel firmly against her face, shielding it from view. The crowd clapped when the pitcher was wheeled off and play resumed.
Teter, last week's NAIA Player of the Week, has led the Cougars in several categories this year. On the mound, she won 21 games, had a 0.98 ERA and struck out 264 batters through 28 starts. At the plate, she led the team with 11 home runs and had a .492 batting average, ranked No. 6 in the NAIA.
But now Teter was gone, rushed to the hospital.
It was the bottom of the second inning against William Woods, the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday in the semifinals of the American Midwest Conference Tournament. The Cougars had lost the first game 1-0, but were leading 6-0 in the second after Hayes hit a grand slam in the top of the second. A Columbia College victory would force a deciding third game on Wednesday.
Freshman Taylor Richter came in to replace Teter, and William Woods started to come back. The Owls scored two runs in the bottom of the second and two in the third. Richter was pulled in the fourth and Rehagen went in to replace her, despite not having pitched since April 16 because of a swollen arm.
“If Val was hurt, if I had to come in, I was going to come in.” said Rehagen after the game, stopping for a moment to collect herself.
The Cougars held off the Owls until the bottom of the seventh, when Megan Willard hit a three-run home run for William Woods to give the Owls a 9-8 victory and a spot in the AMC tournament championship.
“They were shell shocked for a few innings,” Cougars coach Wendy Spratt said about her team. “It’s hard to see Val’s career end like that. It’s hard, I don’t feel like we played our best game, and I don’t feel like we mentally recovered after Val went down.”
The players took the loss the hardest.
“It’s a big disappointment for all the seniors,” Hayes said. “We wanted to do it for her (Teter). I hope she’s OK.”
Rehagen echoed Hayes sentiments.
"I can’t believe Val’s not here," Rehagen said.
The Columbia College players gathered their belongings and slowly filed off the field. It was an all-too-abrupt ending for both Teter and the Cougars, who fell to 29-16 with the loss.
With a No. 15 ranking in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll released Tuesday, the Cougars will await the release of the final poll on May 10 to find out if they will have a shot at receiving an at-large bid to the NAIA National Championships later this month.