August 30, 2021 at 12:35 p.m.
A summer day to remember
The highlight of my summer this year was watching my daughter’s high school softball team win the Division 2 state championship, making June 30 one of the most exciting days ever. Playing at state is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many. And to win it all is even more of a rarity.
Felicity has played on Catholic Memorial High School’s varsity fastpitch softball team since she was a freshman. As a junior this year, she played a variety of infield positions before finding her niche in left field.
Her team started off the season a bit rough going 0-4 in their conference. No one had played high school softball in nearly two years, and four of our starters, being freshmen and sophomores, had never seen varsity competition before.
But it was their year. Catholic Memorial picked up steam and won 17 of its last 20 games before heading off to the state tournament, including wiping out four teams in the playoffs, two of which were ranked in the Top 10 for Division 2.
Despite our epic performance in the playoffs, we were given the lowest seeding at state. Two of the teams we would face hadn’t lost a game all year. We were the underdog. But that’s OK – everyone loves an underdog.
We have one softball team at Catholic Memorial; therefore, everyone plays on varsity. We have 13 players. We play in the Classic 8 conference against all Division 1 schools. These are high schools where 70-plus girls might be trying out for the team. They have a lot of talent to pick from, and some of the schools have three or four softball teams. We have one. There are no cuts. We don’t have that luxury. Our record was 15-9 going into the playoffs.
Catholic Memorial was not expected to win state, so they had nothing to lose. No perfect record to try and preserve. No top seeding to defend. The other teams underestimated what our girls were capable of. They play some great defense and are hot at the plate, too, looking to hit not walk. In fact, we had the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the state on our team.
Now back to June 30. The excitement level was unparalleled, and nerves were high as us parents, who were wearing matching state bound T-shirts, waved around fat heads of our daughters and cheered at the top of our lungs. We were joined by other family members, friends and students who came to cheer on the Catholic Memorial Crusaders.
That day was the stuff movies are made of. The first game came down to the last strike. It was the bottom of the seventh inning. We were up by one run, and the other team was up to bat. The bases were loaded with two outs and a full count on the batter with the winning run at second. (This is equivalent to the ninth inning in Major League Baseball as high school softball plays seven innings.) Our hearts exploded in anticipation as we waited for the next pitch. Strike three. We won the state semi-final 4-3 and would be playing in the state championship game at 6 p.m.
This final game of the season was just as dramatic – maybe more so because the weather also played a factor. Two rain delays and a lightning delay set the game back about two hours, which took it late into the evening. After the third delay, a rainbow appeared directly over the field, and we knew it was going to be a good night.
My daughter made a leaping catch in left field in the first inning that prevented runs from scoring. And later on, she made another great catch under the lights to save additional runs.
The two teams took turns leading all the way to the last inning. It was edge-of-your-seat action, and we were the team down by one run going into the top of the seventh. Catholic Memorial fans cheered to a deafening level when our first girl up to bat hit a single to get the rally going. It was followed by three more singles, putting us ahead one run going into the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, the wet turf played to our advantage when the runner on first decided to stray a little too far from the base. Our catcher had her eye on the slippery situation and gunned the ball to the first baseman who made the tag before the runner could make it back safely. We now had two outs and needed one more strike to win the game. Our pitcher soon delivered that final strike, and we won the state championship 5-4.
After two nail-biting back-to-back wins, Catholic Memorial was crowned state champions while handing two undefeated teams their first losses of the year. The taste of victory was sweet for this underdog of a team that came from behind to win the biggest game of their lives. It was the perfect end to a long-awaited season, and every player contributed to bringing home the trophy. For days, actually maybe weeks later, we lived off the high of winning state. It was a magical moment that none of us will ever forget.
What was the highlight of your summer? Summer is a great time for making special memories, and I hope you were able to make some as well this season – whether on the farm or off.