Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greetings from the softball diamond--

With only three days left to recuperate from our first tournament in Texarkana, we packed our bags for Waco, Texas for yet, another challenging weekend of softball. Headed to Baylor University for their annual Getterman Classic against Syracuse, Purdue, and #7 Baylor, we had high expectations as a team.

We left Shreveport Thursday afternoon around 5:30 p.m. and arrived in Waco close to 11 p.m. that evening. With a long day ahead of us at the ballpark on Friday, we unpacked and went straight to bed.

Friday morning rolled around and we played the opening games of the tournament facing Syracuse from the Big East and Purdue of the Big Ten. Not knowing much about each of these teams, we went into the game against Syracuse with an idea of playing “our game” and nothing else.

Our focus heading into this tournament was improving our overall approach at the plate. In our opening tournament, we seemed to struggle with aggressive at-bats and trusting our strengths at the plate. Practicing several days on hitting last week paid off. Each player went to the plate with a better understanding of what they can do to have a better at-bat. We worked on being aggressive early and swinging at close pitches—putting the ball in play.

Trying to find the momentum to win the first game of our season was what made for a much more exciting tournament. We played well in the opening game against Syracuse putting up five hits and drawing nine walks. Sophomore Haley Bassett provided a spark at the plate going 2-for-2 knocking in two runs. Sophomore Ryan Thacker (also my roommate) picked up her first win of the season throwing six full innings, giving up just five hits, while striking out three. It was an impressive outing on all counts, defensively and offensively.

Against Purdue in the second game on Friday, we put up again, a solid hitting performance with seven hits against the Boilermakers, though it wasn’t enough in the end as they manufactured runs on three errors. Senior outfielder Amy Wiedeman hit her first homerun of the season in a 2-for-4 effort, scoring a run, and driving in three in the 8-7 loss.

We have had to overcome quite some adversity as junior shortstop Emerald Doria has been out with an injury, along with some other minor aches and pains to other players. This adversity has made us work hard to fight through change and realize a little unluckiness early will, in the end, only make us stronger.

After Friday’s games, more than half of the team iced up before heading back to the hotel to relax.  We were treated with a nice dinner just before we were locked into our rooms studying for the rest of the night. An early wakeup call came on Saturday, leaving us questioning whether we would play or not. The forecast called for 100% rain and cold. Well, we woke up to see no rain, but because of the large amount of rain that came the night before our game was backed up two hours.

10 a.m. rolled around and we packed up and were off to Getterman Stadium to play Syracuse at 12 p.m. and Baylor later in the day at 5:30 p.m. An inning was played against the blue and orange from New York, but nothing else, as the tarp crew were off and on, off and on for an inning protecting the beautiful Baylor infield.

I have to admit though, it was quite impressive to watch how quickly these seven men rushed onto the field and were able to tarp in literally a matter of minutes. All I can picture is our entire team of sixteen slaving over the same chore that seven men were able to accomplish.

After several indecisive decisions, the call was made to cancel the day in hopes of protecting the field for play on Sunday. So, as usual, we packed up our bags and piled in our vans. We ate lunch and then were able to spend quality time with our parents if they were in town.

Since most of our team is from Texas, many families were able to make the trip to Baylor including my mom and aunt, who I haven’t seen since Christmas. It was a nice treat to spend the day with each of them, as I know many of my teammates felt the same way.

A team meeting was called Saturday evening before heading to bed for a good night sleep as we prepared for Sunday’s games against Purdue and #7 Baylor of the Big 12. Sunday morning came and we checked out of the hotel, ate breakfast, and arrived at Baylor for a beautiful day of softball.

In the opening game against Purdue, not much seemed to go our way. We struggled to put up hits and put runners on base, finishing with only two hits on the game to Purdue’s ten. As a team, we also make four errors that provided Purdue with many base runners resulting in an 8-0 loss for us.

It was uncharacteristic of us to hand over runs by errors, but Purdue’s foot speed challenged many of our plays causing us to rush throws and not finish plays that are normally our strength. We had to understand that in order to succeed, we must never rush. Being quick is our specialty—so we must always remember to “be quick and not hurry.”

After Purdue’s game, we changed our mindsets and came into the game against Baylor (also the #7 team in the country and a 2007 World Series participant) with a better understanding of what we are there to do. With that, we were able to put up an astounding eight hits against Baylor pitching while stranding seven base runners over the course of the game. On a positive note, we each had great at-bats and were able to contribute something to the game and in the end that will be the key to winning games in the Summit League this season.

Senior Lauren Flowers was able to break through with a great hit over right center wall for her first homerun of the season giving us two runs to Baylor’s four. Sophomore Allison Shepperd went 3-for-3, which included a double off of the center field wall against Baylor. Even though the game ended in another loss for us on the season, we all feel it ended pretty positive. Ryan pitched another great game for us holding the Baylor Bears to only four runs and defensively, there were no errors committed.

Sophomores Haley Bassett and Allison Shepperd were named to Baylor’s all-tournament team on their excellent performances the entire weekend. So, congrats to them—well deserved!

So, as our record is still not where we want it to be, at 1-9, we are working hard to build on the positives of each game. We had many exciting moments this past weekend, though at the same time, we still need to recognize that overcoming adversity early will only make us much stronger once conference starts.

We play this Wednesday against Louisiana Tech in Ruston starting at 5 p.m. 

This weekend we head to the University of Houston to play host, UH, Texas State, Kansas, Boston, and Cal State-Northridge beginning on Friday.

It’s been fun. See you next week. Go Ladies!

“I come to play everyday.” –David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

For the love of the game,

-Allison McClain




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