The 2017 season started with a nightmare scenario for the South City softball team.
In the first inning of the Lady Warriors’ Feb. 23 season opener at Sequoia, South City starting pitcher Giovanna Cornejo was struck in the face with a line drive back to the pitcher’s circle. The senior suffered a concussion and fractures to three of the orbital bones of her left eye.
While Cornejo experienced dramatic swelling, vision problems and nausea in the days to follow, she said Saturday — over three weeks since the mishap — her symptoms had all but subsided. She has not been cleared to play and is likely to miss six to eight weeks from the time of the injury. Even if she is cleared before season’s end, it is likely she will not return to action this season, she said.
“She’s not ready to come back,” South City assistant coach Nick Cerecedes said. “I’ve talked to her mom and dad and we’ll just take it day to day. But she may just miss her whole senior year.”
Cornejo said she has always suffered from vision problems in her left eye. While she underwent tests after being admitted via the emergency room at Sequoia Hospital, though, she worried if she would regain her vision after the swelling subsided.
“I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if everything was going to be OK,” Cornejo said. “There was a lot of things going on in there … but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be blind.”
X-rays and an MRI produced relatively good news in that her vision was expected to return to normal. Her left eye, however, was incrementally displaced. She does not plan to have surgery to repair the displacement, she said.
Cerecedes said he was devastated to see Cornejo’s varsity career all but end in such sudden fashion.
“(I’m) heartbroken because I’ve known her since she was 5,” Cerecedes said. “Her face was the size of a melon.”
An assistant coach, Cerecedes was the acting head coach the day Cornejo was injured with regular head coach Noelle Nelson out of state on a school-related field trip.
The injury occurred at Sequoia High School during the first inning with one runner on base and one out in an eventual 5-0 loss for South City.
Cornejo said she remembers seeing the ball coming back at her and trying to raise her glove to catch it. After the ball struck her she blacked out momentarily and does not remember falling to the ground, she said.
“It’s kind of crazy how I can remember [the ball coming towards me] in slow motion,” Cornejo said. “I can remember the ball coming straight. I got my glove up and I think I might have clipped it … but I’m not really sure. It literally happened so quick, I don’t even remember seeing the ball (hit me).”
Cerecedes said Cornejo fell to knees and immediately covered her face with her glove and free hand, but he could see her nose was bleeding. Play was halted immediately.
Cornejo said the first thing she remembers after blacking out for a few seconds, even after the play was over, was hearing the hum of the ball.
“I was kicking and moaning it hurt so bad, but I wouldn’t cry because I felt the blood coming,” Cornejo said.
Neither Cerecedes nor Cornejo could attest to who attended to her before an ambulance arrived, but that the person instructed her to remain stationary. An ambulance arrived within 10 minutes, Cerecedes said. Cornejo was then carted off the field via a gurney.
“Thank God because I was in so much pain,” Cornejo said. “It wasn’t so much my eye. It was my whole body I was feeling pain.”
With the injury occurring shortly after the game’s 3:30 p.m. first pitch, Cornejo was held at Sequoia Hospital until just after 10 p.m., she said. Her mother and father, neither of who attended the game, both arrived at the hospital shortly after she was admitted. Following the game, the entirety of the Warriors varsity team arrived at the hospital, she said.
While Cornejo appears to be on the road to recovery — she said she expects to be cleared to play no later than mid-April — that she has been instructed it might not be entirely safe to play in the event she should be struck in the face again.
“If I was ever to get hit in the face again … my face would look really bad — deformed,” Cornejo said. “So, right now [the doctor] would suggested not to play, because just because if it heals in the next six to eight weeks, it might not be completely healed.”
After missing two weeks of school, Cornejo returned last week and is now even attending South City’s games.
“She’s looking great,” Cerecedes said. “Her face is starting to go back to normal. She’s seen the doctor. She’s come to our games and is there cheering on her teammates.”