NU made an appearance here in Austin in the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament, so I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to engage in the form of self flagellation with which we're all familiar. It's called being a Northwestern sports fan.
First, our girls are great. It was a pleasure meeting some of them along with their parents. As usual, our student athletes are a great tribute to Northwestern. Also as usual, things never seem to go our way.
In the 5:00 PM game on Thursday against Tennessee Tech we were able to win despite terrible, inconsistent one-sided umpiring behind the plate. I can't understand how something like this can happen between a team from Illinois and Tennessee in Texas at an NCAA tournament, but it did. Fortunately, we were able to weather this misfortune.
Then comes the 2:00 PM game on Friday against SW Texas State. We get stuck as the visitor in this game in record 98 degree heat, so our dugout faces right into the sun. After pitching all those extra innings in the Big Ten tournament plus the game against Tennessee Tech the night before, Courtnay Foster doesn't have it and is pulled in the first inning after giving up three runs. Lauren Schwendimann comes in and pitches shut out ball the rest of the way, yet we lose 3-1 despite out hitting SW Texas State 8 to 5. We just can't get the key hit to win it. An attempted bunt with women at first and second and no outs nearly gets down but is turned into a triple play instead. In one inning we get three hits yet fail to score a run. Northwestern appears to be the best team. But the best team doesn't always win.
Losing this game, Northwestern is forced to play the elimination game less than an hour later. Due to the screwy rules on determing home team, Northwestern is forced again to sit in the visitors dugout in the brutal heat. Hawaii has been resting all day and their dugout is in the shade. Lauren Schwendimann is back on the mound for Northwestern and she pitches ten
more scoreless innings. This game, Northwestern outhits their opponents 9 to 7 but we lose in the eleventh inning on a double, a wild pitch and a hit up the middle. So Lauren Schwendimann pitches a total of sixteen scoreless innings yet Northwestern still loses the two games. Once again, Northwestern appears to be the better team, but we can't get the timely hitting and numerous scoring opportunities are squandered.
SW Texas and Hawaii are the class of the field outside Texas. After falling to Texas, SW Texas got past Hawaii for the right to face Texas a second time. Texas has the best pitcher in college softball, Cat Ostermann, so it would have been tough to win this Regional; but nevertheless, it would have been nice to see how the Cats would have fared against the Longhorns.
I feel so badly for our girls. They really played their hearts out under extremely difficult circumstances. I was sitting right behind our dugout. Around the sixth inning of the second game on Friday, Assistant Coach Alicia Smith tried to fire up our players. She yelled, "We don't need to sleep. We don't need to eat. We don't need to bathe. All we need to do is play softball."
Man, it's tough being a Northwestern fan. Our girls deserved better but it just wasn't meant to be.
-- da Coach
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