Watching the Women’s College World Series I was very impressed by the great play of all the teams in the field. There were some upsets on the road to OKC but the teams that qualified showed they clearly belong. That being said, of course, under the bright lights with the huge crowds not everything went to plan. And one play in particular is clearly in the “OH NO” category.
On the Everything Fastpitch podcast Coach Don and I recently talked about how impressed we were with Oklahoma State. They were such a fundamentally strong team. They used the short game to perfection in their win over Florida and showed that they were a team with the tools to win it all. They were the one team I really felt confident could put their in-state rival, Oklahoma to the test. Over the course of the entire year they showed over and over again that they were for real!
And then something crazy happened on their way to the Championship Series. Texas came into the semi finals needing to beat Oklahoma State twice. Texas played a great game in the first game to force the all or nothing, survive and advance showdown game. It started out looking like Oklahoma State had righted the ship and jumped out to a 5 run lead and with their ace, Kelly Maxwell pitching great, it looked like a lock. And then…
Texas got back into the game with a 3 run homer to make the score 5-3 and add a little pressure to Oklahoma State. But most people not wearing a Texas shirt were still pretty sure that Oklahoma State was in good shape. Then Texas started to rally and with 2 runners on base they got a base hit to right field. What happened next was every coach and players nightmare. An error in right, a throw home, a cutoff play where the first base player made an aggressive play to throw behind a runner that had strayed pretty far from second base to only see that throw only stop rolling when it hit the wall in center field. All the while Texas base runners are circling the bases and a two run lead quickly became a one deficit. It was the perfect storm. All good efforts that usually would lead a team like Oklahoma State to victory but in this case set them up for defeat. Now Oklahoma State had a few more chances to hit but the shock of what happened during that one crazy play seemed to hang over the game until Texas got the last out.
The point, you ask!
Well there are a bunch. Even the best players make mistakes. A team that keeps fighting always has a chance. You can do the right thing and still have it blow up in your face. No matter how many times you practice a situation you still never know how a player or team will react under intense pressure. Great coaches allow their players to play an aggressive style of softball which can win you a big game but it does have some risks. Working on the “what if” plays should always be high on your list of practice priorities.
And most importantly, you have to love the post season. You think you have seen it all and then you watch another game. You’ll see a whole lot of amazing players who do incredible things. You get to see players laying it all on the line and sometimes it costs them. But would you want it any other way? Of course not!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?