Snapshots from the World Series
On Sunday, a few players offered memorable moments that had little to do with who won, who lost or who's ultimately going to exit a champion
OKLAHOMA CITY — In a few days, when the Women’s College World Series concludes, when the last words are furiously written by sportswriters trying to do it justice up against a deadline, or, in an internet world, moments before they’re chased out of the press box, softball's premier annual event is bound to be about one of a few things.
It will be about Oklahoma’s bashing its way to another crown or how it’s Bedlam rival turned the tables on a team for which there appeared to be no answers or, though long shots, how UCLA or Texas came from nowhere to make history … sort of, because how much history can the Bruins really make in an event they’ve already claimed 13 times, but you get the idea.
Here, though, are some things it’s also about as we turn toward Monday, the day that will give us our last two teams standing.
You know how we get tired of coaches and players telling us about how somebody’s “energy" is so important? Or how, right there with having to “execute,” “bring energy” has become the next most stock answer when anybody’s asked what must happen to win? Like, “Yeah, we know, goes without saying, but maybe tell us an actual key?”
Well, sometimes you see an athlete that makes you remember it really can be about the energy and Sunday that player was Texas’ Estelle Czech, who relieved Hailey Dolcini in the fourth inning, allowed only a hit and struck out four, sending Arizona out of Hall of Fame Stadium and back to Tucson.
Her intensity was palpable. At times it was like she was dancing celebrating a big out. Every bit of her screamed, “I’ve got this,” in a way you can hardly describe but totally recognize.
Her team fed off it, pulling away with four runs in the fourth and fifth innings, riding her energy, absolutely, to a 5-2 victory.
“A little nervous,” Czech said she was. “This is my first time being in the World Series.”
Yet she owned the circle and pretty much the whole diamond.
You don’t need a dog — or a Longhorn — in the fight to see it and be pulled in by it.
It’s also about a player like Hanah Bowen, who began in the circle for the Wildcats, who’d pitched through a nagging hip injury throughout the season, though by Sunday night under the lights, whatever ailed her appeared to have spread to her leg, knee and ankle.
Remember how Tiger Woods, years ago, played through the pain, putting off surgery to stay on the course and sometimes could hardly stand after following through with his driver?
That was Bowen after every pitch, and still, though two were on base when she was lifted, having faced two batters in the fourth, she’d yet to let anything cross.
“She’s been banged up this whole season, but here’s the thing,” her coach, Caitlin Lowe said, “her heart and her head got her a lot farther than … you know, it didn’t matter for her. She wanted to get here for this team and for herself.”
There are players who leave it all on the field and then there’s what Bowen did for three-plus innings against the Longhorns.
As much as the World Series is about winning, triumph, coming through in the end, it’s every bit as much and perhaps more about losing, with grace and tears and some sense of the journey being its own reward.
Natalie Lugo wasn’t the only Florida player who gave sincere and moving credit to her coach, Tim Walton, after the Gators were eliminated by UCLA, 8-0, in Sunday’s early game, but she nailed it when she did.
“I don’t really have enough words to explain my time at UF,” she said. “There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but without coach Walton, I wouldn’t have grown into the woman that I am right now. He has just taught me more than I ever thought I could learn … growing up into someone I’m really proud of being right now.”
The next thing she said was, “I don’t know, I don’t really have the words.”
No more were required.
Sports are mostly great for the drama, the thing you’ve never seen before but just saw, the team nobody gave a chance, yet prevailed, just the amazing stories they provide.
But they’re about the snapshots, too, and that’s three of them, all in the same day, even from the same place.
There’s always more.
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Oklahoma 7, Texas 2
Oklahoma State 2, Florida 0
UCLA 8, Florida 0
Texas 5, Arizona 2
Oklahoma vs. UCLA 9, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma vs. UCLA 9, 1:30 p.m., if necessary (ESPN)
Oklahoma State vs. Texas, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma State vs. Texas, 8:30 p.m., if necessary (ESPN)
Championship Series, Game 1, TBA (ESPN)
Championship Series, Game 2, TBA (ESPN2)
Championship Series, Game 3, if necessary, TBA (ESPN)