The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. Only 4 out of the 11 teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) have extended their season up until this point. After a long nine hour bus ride Wednesday afternoon, an intense practice on Thursday, and one win under our belt in the first round, we take on rival, Chico State University, in the semifinals of the tournament.
Although the Wildcats defeated us 3 out of 4 times during regular league play, the playoffs are always full of the unknown. There is a different feeling to the postseason. All slates are cleared and anything can happen. And most importantly, everyone knows UC San Diego plays it’s best when a championship is on the line.
A pitching duel between Chico State’s Pitcher of the Year, senior Haley Gilham and UCSD’s Freshman of the Year, Robyn Wampler, the game was bound to come down to who could squeak out a run or two.
Heading into the bottom of the 6th, trailing 1-0, I am due up to lead off the inning. I had lined out in my first at-bat and drew a walk in the at-bat prior, so I knew I was due for a base hit. Nonetheless, my job is to simply find a way on anyway I can.
I stick to my plan as Gilham has been pounding me inside all day. I toe up the line and crowd the plate to make it harder for the umpire to call a strike on anything on the inner half. I take a deep breath, clear my mind, and remind myself to enjoy the experience. First pitch sneaks in for strike one. Expecting inside once again, the ball nearly hits me. With a 1-1 count, I look to drive something to the left side. I work the count full after fighting off several pitches, refusing to go down.
With two strikes on me now, I am in attack mode, swinging at anything close. I can hear the alumni cheering me on in the stands and that is when I think, “This is what it is all about.” This is what I have worked so hard for. This is what I have spent hours upon hours attempting to master. I am finally here and now it is a matter of executing. Glancing down at my coach, she hypes me up, suggesting small reminders before I dig in for the next pitch. Regardless of the results, I allow myself to absorb the ambiance and the competition.
On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, I continuously rehearse “Turn on it. Turn on it.” The pitch comes in, I load and stay in my legs, and see the ball down for ball four. I turn to the dugout, toss my bat and trot down to first. I represent the tying run with no outs and the heart of the order coming up.