Breaking It Down With Bailey
May 19, 2009
WOW wow WOW wow WOW wowowwoow!! That is the only word that I can honestly come up with right now. I am still just so worn out from this last week it is ridiculous.
First of all, we flew out Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. on a chartered flight out of Boeing Field, which was by far the best flight I have ever been on. The flight attendants were amazing, the seats were actually comfortable and no one was forced to squish in next to each other, even though some of use sat by each other anyway. Well, since this blog is from my perspective, I will tell you that Wednesday was pretty rough for me since Tuesday night I got one hour of sleep (I was too excited, not to mention the fact that we had to leave campus at 5:55 a.m.) and during the flight while everyone was asleep, I studied (since I have some sort of sleeping disorder I'm sure!). Anyway, 4 hours and 45 minutes later we finally touched down in Connecticut and hopped on a bus for a 25-minute bus ride to our hotel.
We got to the hotel, took our stuff to our rooms, ate lunch and had to get back on the bus to find a place to throw and 'work out'. Well, it really was quite the workout, and let me tell you, many of us were cranky and irritable. We did this work out from Coach Tarr's iPhone called 'Pump Intensity'. It was all body-weight squats, abs, lunges, you name it. Anything and everything that made those little muscles sore. It was kind of tough, especially after we just ate. But once that was done, we played some catch and a small situational defense with a 'lite-flite' (a spongy softball). Once 'practice' was over we went to eat (I can't even remember where it was so long ago). All I know is, it was late (since we had lost three hours of our day due to the time change) and we still had to go back and study! We studied from 8:30-9:30 p.m. and then we finally went to sleep!! Day one over!!!
Thursday we had team breakfast at 9 a.m. (which was 6 a.m. at home, so it was incredibly difficult to get up) then we had 'class' from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and weights from 11:00-11:30 a.m. and then we had an hour and a half until we had practice at UMass for two hours. So we went to Panera for lunch, practiced in the pouring rain, then we came back for more study hall and more sleep!
Friday was FINALLY game day! Sacred Heart was in Regionals for their first time and we were in it for our 16th. It was described as David vs. Goliath. We came out with a bang and thank goodness we got the game done in five innings so we could save Danielle's arm a little bit...
Saturday was a different game. We knew UMass was supposed to be good. We just didn't know how good. An interesting stat for the game was that all the runs in the game were unearned. But this game set the tone for what was an unpredictable pitching duel and a preview for a ridiculous Regional championship match-up. Two crucial errors by UMass enabled us to put some runs on the board, but that's what happens when you force the other team to make plays. This was a crucial win because it kept us from having to play one more game than necessary, and all we had to do was win one more to seal our Super Regional fate.
Sunday however, was one of the most intense days of my softball career if not the MOST intense and emotionally draining.
In the afternoon game, all we needed to do was win the first game and we would guarantee ourselves a trip out to Atlanta for Super-Regional play. Well, we just had to go make the day as interesting as we could. Much to our surprise, UMass made some key adjustments on Danielle and got themselves a few big hits to put them up for the entire game. We looked as if we would make a little run at a comeback but that wasn't the case. With 25 minutes between games, we had just enough time to change not only our uniform color (since we were in home whites the first game, we needed to wear away purple for the second) but we also had to change our mindset. We knew that we were 34-0 when we score first...so we made that our goal. We wanted to score early and often. So the first inning we came out with a bang! A leadoff triple by Ashley Charters looked incredibly promising! Jenn Salling clutched up and picked up a sac fly to put us up 1-0. We only had a few hits thru the first few innings and we were looking to put up some insurance runs. We got runners on but just couldn't execute. Our lack of execution led to some UMass momentum, resulting in a solo homerun to knot things up...
[I can't even express to you the stress that this game brought. I think I have a grey hair.]
Anyway, every inning from there on out brought more and more emotion. I think at one point I had tears in my eyes from the frustration of not knowing what the outcome of the game would be. The Minutewomen hit solid line drives, which either resulted in them left stranded on base or the ball being caught by an amazing UW outfielder. I don't think any of us outfielders reacted to Amanda's catch in the bottom of the 8th the way we usually would because it was like a dream. Thank goodness we had the plan to play deep so nothing would be over our head...but at that point any of us would have run through a wall for not only Danielle, who was pitching her heart out, but for this team.
We finally started to chip away, putting up 10 hits over the course of about 10 innings, but we just couldn't push across a run. Every time we put up another goose egg, we knew Danielle had to pitch six more outs. I was honestly out in left field talking to myself, cheering as hard as I could for Danielle and basically just going insane. (The hecklers out there were brutal, by the way!) I just didn't know what our fate was to be. All I knew was I wanted to do anything I could to help this team win. Finally, after several innings of stranding runners, with the sacks full of Huskies and two away, Jenn hit a soft groundball to the third baseman who checked second for some reason and by the time she threw to first...JENN WAS SAFE AND A RUN FINALLY SCORED!!! We literally jumped out of the dugout just going crazy. I actually was cleated by a teammate during the celebration right in the leg, but I don't even care. We were on cloud nine! We were all soooo emotional all we could chant was 'MORE, MORE, MORE, MORE...', we weren't done!
Scoring five runs with two outs in the top of the 15th was just what we needed for some breathing room to hold the home team. They started off their half of the inning with their 2-3-4 hitters. A bloop single and an error later, no outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, it looked as if they were going to start a rally, but as fast as it started is how fast that rally was killed. A two-hopper to Morgan Stuart at third, who stepped on her bag for the force and gunned it to first to complete the double play, and there we were, one out away from completing the only game in NCAA history to stretch over two days without rain delay, the longest game in both UW and UMass history and getting ourselves a bid to Super Regionals. I was too busy getting heckled in left field, checking the fence behind me, and getting ready to sprint to the mound, to recall the following five minutes. All that's important is when Danielle struck out the final batter she would face, she dropped her hands and head in exhaustion and everyone mobbed her on the mound. I have the chills just thinking about it. Only the 25 people in the dugout and 11 fans we had at the game will know just how special that game was. I can't even come up with enough adjectives to give you a proper illustration. Incredible. Breath-taking. Worth every sprint and every extra cut we have taken all year. This game will forever give me chills.
People came away with a few battle wounds. Aly was dinged early on in the first inning. In fact, I think it might have been the sixth pitch of the game. All I know is I turned on an inside pitch and smoked it directly into our dugout right at Al's shin...she had to hobble around for the next 14-and-a-half innings on a ridiculously swollen leg. Morgan fell while stretching because she was too exhausted to hold herself up (apparently that happened in the 12th inning). And I fouled a ball off my left thigh in the top of the 15th (I have no idea how I did it, it's my back leg, but I have a bruise twice the size of a softball which hurts every time my leg jiggles...gross). But all I can say: is we're drained and using this week to recuperate.
Today we fly to Atlanta, Georgia to face Georgia Tech on their home turf. Keep up with the Dawgs on ESPN this weekend (not sure which ESPN...*) but make sure to watch!!
Quote for the week: 'Only a man who knows what it's like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even' - Muhammad Ali
This makes me think of all of us who were on the '07 team, and how we know what it's like to lose...we can share our experience with the rookies and help them to help this team get it done.
Thanks so much for your support and for all of you who came to Amherst, Massachusetts! Ashlyn's sister, Kaitlyn Watson, deserves a shout-out for starting a GOOOOOO HUSKIES cheer during UMass's chant and our fans being louder than theirs!! We had literally 11 fans there and they were amazing!
Stay classy and GO TEAM PURP!!!
[time for a deep breath.]
*All three Super Regional games this weekend will air live on ESPN (as in, ESPN not ESPN2 or ESPNU) and ESPN360.com.