2015 Fordham Softball – Week 11 / Being Knocked Off the Horse and Getting Back On

Saturday, March 28, 2015 – La Salle University / Bronx, New York

After a disappointing series in St. Louis, we pulled together and got back on the horse against La Salle this weekend.

After a disappointing series in St. Louis, we pulled together and got back on the horse with a convincing sweep of La Salle this weekend. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

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.

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2015 Fordham Softball – Week 10 / Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

Friday, March 20, 2015 – St. Louis University / St. Louis, Missouri

In just a matter of minutes, the view from our Southwest Airlines flight went from daunting to clear as day, serving as a metaphor for the trajectory of our season.

In just a matter of minutes, the view from our Southwest Airlines flight went from daunting to clear as day, serving as a metaphor for the trajectory of our season.

I was nervous as we waited for takeoff. With heavy snow pounding the runway’s pavement and gusting winds causing our Southwest Airlines airplane to tremor, feelings of anxiety and vulnerability were conjuring up inside of me. This was the worst weather we had experienced on the runway in my four years at Fordham, and I thought for sure that we were destined for an about-face and a short trip back to the safety of the airport. But, our pilot had other ideas and decided to brave the elements. A mistake, I thought, for sure.

As the several tons of steel we occupied accelerated along the runway, I braced my armrest in fear of what I could not control; feeling small and powerless amid something as big and daunting as an airplane and its irrevocable takeoff. The plane was going to take flight, no matter what the intensity of my trepidation was. I had to just trust that our plane and its operators were prepared to lead us through the storm, and that ultimately, God was in control of it all.

When the wheels left the ground, the airplane emerged from the pavement with uncertainty, struggling initially to find its balance and straighten its path for the first few seconds of its ascendance. As we loomed higher and higher above the East River with each passing moment, we abruptly became captivated by a sea of grey. The very storm clouds that were the sources of my anxiety had engulfed us in their rage and shaded any comforting colors and sights of onward progress from view. It was as though we were moving at rapid speeds, but not really headed anywhere, or at least anywhere promising.

Then, in a matter of minutes (which felt like hours, nonetheless), we emerged into what appeared to be a different stratosphere. Our ascension through the clouds had carried us above the storm, and in the midst of the brightest blue sky and sunshine I had ever seen. Below us, feathery clouds gave the impression that they were cradling our aircraft and softening its weight, along with the burden of my fears.

We had literally traveled out of the darkness and into the light.

Following the short time of fear and uncertainty I had endured at the beginning of our flight, the rest of the journey was as smooth as one could imagine, with rays of sunlight illuminating the cabin and never-ending horizons stretching further than my eyes could see. The polar opposite of what our trip was looking like at its start.

Our flying experience today somewhat mirrors what we have experienced since the first week of February. Although it may appear differently to outsiders, this season has been a stormy one at times, as rough experiences and bad days during our tough pre-conference stretch of traveling and playing sometimes left us with fears and doubts about the remainder of our time together in uniform. For me personally, things have often felt grey this season like they did amongst those storm clouds today; like my senior season has been passing me by at rapid speeds, but I’ve been unable to see any color along the way to brighten my journey because of several instances that have, at times, clouded its enjoyment.

But, the metaphor that our most recent flying experience created has given me great hope for all that lies ahead. In trusting that, like our Southwest airplane, we have already braved the grey and stormy elements of our season and are destined for beautiful forecasts ahead, I am optimistic.

It is ironic that today is the official start of spring because tomorrow is the onset of another season for our team; it is the beginning of Atlantic 10 Conference play and the dawn of our real season, the one that will determine our seeding in the conference tournament and position to win a championship in May.

As we begin our conference slate against a very tough St. Louis team this weekend, it is important for me to remember all that was realized and experienced today aboard Southwest Airlines flight 395. No matter how uncertain or daunting things may have seemed at times during these past six weeks, I firmly believe that every struggle has served as a test of our durability and ability to trust in the process and the greater plan for our season. And ultimately, it is crucial to know that on an airplane, in softball, and in life, it is often the time spent in darkness that allows one to truly appreciate the light.

I know the light lies ahead.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 9 / A Revitalizing Delay on the Runway

Thursday, March 12, 2015 – N.C. State / Raleigh, North Carolina

Sophomore Lindsay Mayer gets mobbed after her big walk-off hit to give us a 9-inning, 3-2 win over Lipscomb at N.C. State.

Sophomore Lindsay Mayer gets mobbed after her big walk-off hit to give us a 9-inning, 3-2 win over Lipscomb at N.C. State.

For anyone who has ever traveled by airplane, there’s almost nothing worse in the flying experience than getting delayed on the runway. Or so it initially seems.

With each revolution of the wheels as they approach the airstrip, it feels as though you’re inching closer and closer to your desired destination, only to be disappointed by what happens next: the wheels stop their revolutions, the captain’s voice echoes through the plane’s speakers, and the massive carrier comes to a halt. At a moment’s notice, things go from moving right along to being stuck at a standstill, and suddenly, you’re left alone with idle time. A buzzkill during your trip, for certain.

We experienced these traveling woes today at the start of our journey to Raleigh, North Carolina. Just as we were about to take off from LaGuardia Airport, some runway traffic caused our flight’s captain to announce a delay that would have us at a standstill for an indefinite amount of time. So, we and the rest of our packed Delta flight initially sat in frustrated anticipation of our impending take-off.

At first, it seemed like the worst thing that could happen; moments of stagnancy in a stuffy airplane, a delay in the schedule, a change to the itinerary. What could be worse for fast-moving, New York City-dwelling, student-athlete-millennials like us? Probably only dead cellphones and places without Wi-Fi access.

After the first impatient five minutes passed, however, the idle time was actually pretty nice. It not only allowed me to watch the sun descend upon the ground while other planes ascended into the sky, but also to have some unadulterated time alone with my thoughts, with just the soothing sounds of my iPod filling my ears.

I thought about who our team had been for the past 16 games, who we are today, and most important, who we would be in May. It was refreshing to have some quiet time to think during our travels, instead of constantly moving toward the next destination.

Some forty-five minutes later, we finally made it into the sky and resumed our trip to N.C. State. Once we got into the air, I realized that today’s delay on the runway was reminiscent of our lives over the past 12 days.

During the first four weeks of the season, it felt as though we could barely come up for air. It seemed like we would return to Fordham from softball-filled weekends and merely blink our eyes and it would be Thursday, our travel day, yet again. A crazy life even for those of us who are used to the crazy life that comes with the college softball season.

But, for the past 12 days since our big win against Minnesota in Orlando, our crazy lives were toned down a bit. A weekend without games and some days off granted by our coaches afforded us the chance to rest our bodies and minds, and refuel for our tough weekend ahead at N.C. State.

Similar to my experience on the runway today, some time off amid our on-the-go routine gave us a chance to just “be,” instead of living to constantly “do.”

And like our situation on the runway today, the static time off was frustrating at first, seemingly unnecessary even. It appeared to simply be a break in the momentum that had us rolling right along toward our destination. Why stop the plane’s wheels from revolving once they started moving toward the runway?

But, after 12 days of limited softball-related stress, numerous chances to break down swing mechanics, and a ton of time to reflect and think, I realized that our hiatus was much needed, and may even prove to be a great thing for us going forward.

So, while a delay on a runway or during the college softball season doesn’t usually appear to be ideal initially, I realized today that it could be just what we needed to slow things down and revitalize us for the next leg of the journey.

And plus, as long as the desired destination is eventually reached, the frustrations created by the delay are almost always forgotten and the journey is remembered as an overall success.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 8

Sunday, March 8, 2015 – Off Weekend / Bronx, New York

After four consecutive weekends on the road, we Rams were treated to a weekend at Fordham, free of traveling and games. During this time off from playing, we had the opportunity to rest our bodies and minds a bit, reflect on the past four weeks of play, and like always, use our time in the gym and at practice to improve. Check out the highlights from our off weekend:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 7 / Turning Letdowns into Lessons

Thursday, February 26, 2015 – Citrus Classic / Orlando, Florida

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset of #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset victory over #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

Over the course of a long and taxing season, letdowns are inevitable. A sudden switch in momentum, an instant of complacency, or a momentary lapse in judgment, and things can suddenly go from hunky-dory to dire, and fast.

In a quick-moving game like college softball, in which you blink your eyes and it’s the fifth inning, transient letdowns can often determine the outcomes of games, especially if you fall on your heels and expect victory to happen just by showing up.

Last Saturday in South Carolina, that’s just what happened to us. Over the course of our game against Gardner-Webb, the David to our Goliath, letdown crept up and quickly turned those seven-innings into our most frustrating loss of the season, and later, a week of reflection.

And lengthy our week was; we collectively dealt with cringing could-haves, regretful should-haves, and long conversations with parents, teammates, and coaches alike about what went wrong and how we went from flying high on a five-game winning streak to questioning our team’s ability, in just two hours of bad softball. On top of it all, we had to wait six days to play again, so the bitter taste and painful vestiges of defeat lingered for much longer than we would have liked.

Amid the animated conversations, prognostications about the remainder of our season, and awkward questions from outsiders about how we could possibly lose to a far-inferior team, however, the week-long reflection allowed me to realize that this loss could very well be a blessing in disguise for us; a reminder that in-between the white lines, nothing is guaranteed and no one is invincible, no matter who the opponent is and what the rankings say. While the naysayers may think differently, our loss to Gardner-Webb could be just the kick in the behind we need to ignite our fire going forward, for this weekend in Orlando and in upcoming Atlantic 10 contests in March and April.

Ironically, the tides will turn for us this weekend, and we will become a Gardner-Webb-like team, as we face our toughest competition of the season at the Citrus Classic. While facing two ranked teams in Georgia and Minnesota, and also playing other formidable opponents during our second stay in Florida this season, it is important for us to remember the lesson we learned from our game with Gardner-Webb: Every team is susceptible to letdowns, no matter how good they look on paper. After all, this is a game played by humans, flawed ones, in fact. And like the example Goliath set forth, no one is invincible.

So, once the first pitch is thrown tomorrow in the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, our slate from last weekend will finally be cleaned and we will have the chance to be another team’s source of letdown; the David to someone else’s Goliath.

No matter what happens this weekend, though, I know that the Gardner-Webb loss will pay long-term dividends for us, even if they aren’t visible immediately. And like we’ve experienced several times before, we can right the wrongs of our past losses simply by turning our letdowns into lessons for the future and attacking our opponents like David did, regardless of being the underdog or not.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 6 / Adjusting to the Cold like the Curve

Thursday, February 19, 2015 – Furman University / Greenville, South Carolina

Our outfielders got a little wet while diving at practice in South Carolina.

Our outfielders got a little wet while diving at practice in South Carolina.

Greenville, South Carolina: Friday, high of 34; low of 10.

The weather application on my iPhone has read these daunting figures for the past five days that I’ve been persistently checking it. Since returning to New York from Florida on Sunday night, I’ve wholeheartedly believed that these numbers on my phone, with imaginary icicles attached to them, were simply mistakes. They must be. Just basic human fallacies put on full display for the Apple community to view; simple errors on the parts of the imperfect weather reporters who must have accidentally conveyed the upcoming weather for Maine, or even Alaska, but definitely not Greenville, South Carolina, where we are headed to play softball this weekend. No shot.

For five days, however, these numbers haven’t budged. On Monday, the high for Friday in Greenville was 34, and on Thursday night, 34 it remains. So, unless some divine miracle brings an unforeseen heatwave to the Eastern seaboard within the next 12 hours, this is our bitter reality. And bitter it will almost certainly be.

But, like adjusting to a pitch or an unfamiliar infield surface, the cold weather is just another variable in a game filled with uncertainty. An added curveball, if you will.

In playing this game at the highest collegiate level, however, we have been seasoned to adapt and adjust constantly. This is a game through which we have learned that frequent adjustments are imperative for success to ensue. A game that has required us to take on chameleon-like personae in order to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances within a seven-inning affair, and on a larger scale, a 60-game season.

So, with our compression shirts, hand warmers, and maroon winter jackets in tow, we are as prepared as we can possibly be for the battles that lie ahead at Furman University; even if these battles involve two adversaries at once: our opponent and the unrelenting cold.

This weekend, softball will provide an even greater test of the mind, body, and will than it usually does for us. One likely to involve some stinging hands, chapped lips, and maybe even a few broken bats. But, one that will make us better in ways that are unknown at the moment.

Perhaps, it will make us more battle-tested for the cold, Bronx match-ups ahead in late-March and early-April. Or maybe, it will give us something to pull from the memory bank to provide us with strength when games get long and tough in the future. Or maybe, it will just be a good story to tell. Vis-à-vis a ‘we-walked-nine-miles-barefoot-in-the-snow’ type. But rather, ours will be a ‘we-played-a-warm-weather-sport-in-below-freezing-temperatures’ tale. Something along those lines.

Regardless of what the lesson to be learned this weekend is, something tells me that winning will make 34 feel like 64 pretty quickly, especially on this team.

So, let’s brave the elements and play some ball. And no, I don’t mean snowball.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 5 / Playing the Game Like Prisoners Set Free

Thursday, February 12, 2015 – University of South Florida / Tampa, Florida

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

It’s funny where writing inspiration comes from sometimes. For me, it’s usually through circumstances and conversations, even transitory thoughts or words that unintentionally pop into my mind. Today, it came from the back of a leather airplane seat. A most unlikely place.

For the 40 minutes of idle time during which we were stuck on the runway at LaGuardia Airport aboard our mid-afternoon JetBlue flight, I casually flip-flopped between small talk with those around me and the calming escape of my headphones, in order to ease my anxious anticipation of our impending takeoff. Just before our plane’s wheels circled towards the sky, the familiar sight of a ball field on the small, soundless television screen in front of me naturally caught my eye. Intrigued, my headphones immediately shifted from the inside of my primordial iPod into the armrest connecting me to the previously silenced words from the moving mouths on the screen.

In a matter of minutes, an impressive New York Times Op-Docs video piece took me through the story of the San Quentin Giants – a baseball team unlike any of the ones I had previously been familiar with. It featured prisoners who were afforded the opportunity to play baseball despite their incarceration at the San Quentin Bay Prison in San Francisco. Baseball not only gave these men a physical outlet away from their prison cells, but it also provided them with a mental escape from the confines of their pasts, as well as a way to learn about themselves and cope with their current realities.

I gained a great amount of perspective from watching the Times’ moving seven-minute feature, and of course, thought about how I could apply the San Quentin Giants’ story to ours.

What stuck with me most after viewing the video piece were the prisoners’ beautiful descriptions about how baseball made them feel. One man called the game “a relief.” Another said, “When I am on that field, I am not locked up.”

During a week in which it felt like we were just going through the motions, at practice and otherwise, as we were similarly (though not nearly as drastically) confined to the four walls of the Lombardi Center, these were just the words I needed to hear to be reminded about what a tremendous blessing it is to play this great game every day.

Perhaps things felt differently this week due to a combination of tiredness from school and practice, and the letdown from returning indoors after playing in beautiful Arizona weather. Whatever it might have been, I believe the reality of the 55-game grind ahead hit us collectively, whether consciously or subconsciously, and caused our week to drag a bit.

Oftentimes, the hectic lifestyle of the Division I student-athlete experience causes the actual games themselves to get lumped in with the sometimes stressful undertakings leading up to competition. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling overwrought while playing; haunted by looming statistics and a fear of failure.

It is vital for us to remember, this weekend and always, that the practicing, lifting, and long days of classes that turn into late nights of homework are the hard parts of the experience. The games, however, are supposed to be fun; the times when our hard work and God-given abilities are demonstrated. The times when we should experience feelings of relief like the San Quentin Giants did. The times when we should relinquish the stifling grips our minds often have over our bodies, which hinder our physical performances. It’s time for us to play like prisoners set free.