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.