Saturday, March 28, 2015 – La Salle University / Bronx, New York
If you ask most people on our team to rank the worst softball experience of their careers, I bet the events of last weekend in St. Louis would crack the top three. For me, however, last weekend took the cake as the single-worst softball experience I’ve ever endured.
Everyone with a vested interest in Atlantic 10 Softball finally got what they had been waiting ten months for: a rematch of last year’s conference championship game between the two best teams in the A10. And the weekend slate did not disappoint, as Fordham vs. SLU generated three extremely eventful games to boot.
Much to the surprise and disgust of our tall-walking, chest-puffing, two-time defending champion-selves, we dropped two out of our three contests against the Billikens. However, these were not just any two losses in a sport that by the season’s end, even teams in the Top 25 have nearly twenty defeats. These were two of the most difficult-to-swallow losses one who has ever played or been involved with softball could imagine.
We got walked-off on in the bottom of the seventh inning, twice. Twice. In the same weekend. By the same team. Even worse, we held comfortable leads in both games before the bottom fell out from underneath us, twice.
While the first loss was certainly a stinger, as a walk-off home run purged the St. Louis players and fans of the celebratory screams that had been dormant within them since last May, it was the second loss that evoked some of the most poignant and incensed feelings I’ve ever experienced between the white lines.
In the ultimate act of retribution, St. Louis matched each run we embarrassed them with in our 11-0 championship game steamroll last season. They beat us 11-10 in the series’ heartbreaking finale. Unlike 10 months ago, they did not falter or collapse under the weight our 8-run cushion, but rather, appeared to be fueled by it. It was as if their plan had been to give us familiar feelings of security, which we had previously felt against them on May 10, 2014, by allowing us to momentarily possess a massive lead. This time, however, they ripped away our sense of security in the most painful of ways, with their late-inning dramatics. They had knocked us off of our high horse.
While I respected what they had done, as any lover of the sport would, I absolutely hated it. For nearly two days, sleep evaded me, sickness was experienced, and a seemingly permanent pit was planted inside my stomach. Even 48 hours later, I just could not shake that second loss.
But, as my father learned from former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and has reminded me countless times throughout my softball career, “a great thing about this game is that you get to wake up and play it again.” While the college softball schedule isn’t exactly like that of Major League Baseball’s 162-game grind, it is similar. On Tuesday, when I got the chance to play again, the pain of the weekend had been lessened, and by Wednesday, when we played and won our home-opener against Iona, the anguish had almost completely subsided.
While the agony of defeat experienced in St. Louis was the worst I’ve ever endured, it forced my teammates and me to learn more than we ever would have without it. It’s funny, because when you win, you never look at the things you did wrong, but when you lose, especially in heartbreaking fashion, you’re reminded of every grueling detail and forced to realize your own shortcomings. No doubt, a blessing in disguise.
The losses forced us to collectively do the little things better this week; study film, break down mechanics, look within ourselves and question who we are and what we need to do in order to become who we want to be. Plain and simple, we got back to basics after our disastrous weekend in St. Louis.
As we play our second conference series this weekend at home against La Salle, we are renewed. Humbled, sure, but instilled with a new sense of hunger. One that serves as a reminder of what was done to us last weekend, how it made us feel, and what we must do to get back on top.
And, as a softball veteran with countless experiences on both the winning and losing side of things, I know it is much better to lose like we did to SLU in March, than to have it happen when it matters most in May.
Now, it’s time to get back on that horse.