May 15, 2014

My Championship Experience – 2014 Softball Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

North Dakota State sophomore Alyssa Reina writes about her experience at the 2014 Summit League Softball Championship:

Tuesday, May 6th
 After a productive practice, it was time to get ready for the annual league banquet. It’s always fun for the team and I to dress up when we get the chance because our wardrobe of choice during the season mostly consists of sweats and practice gear. After introductions and a motivating speech by Myndee Kay Larsen, the teams went one-by-one to get dinner. My team, of course, dug in like animals, especially on the dessert, but obviously we remained lady-like. After dinner, it was time to hand out the awards. We congratulated everyone for their individual awards. I was especially proud of Jay Ortega, Alex Sobrero, Krista Menke, Cheyenne Garcia, and Jackie Stifter for receiving awards because they deserved to be recognized for all their accomplishments. After the dozens of pictures taken by coaches and teammates alike, it was time to go home and get some rest for tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7th
The team finally got one last practice in on our field before the tournament started. It felt great finally being outside and on dirt again after practicing on wood floors with softie balls for the last few months. After our defensive practice some of us went to classes before we went to the hitting facility to get a couple cuts in and get our offensive game down for what could be the last time this season. After practice was over, we all hung out together doing some performances and karaoke then we enjoyed watching Rocky IV as we got ready for our big fight. We didn’t know how much our weekend would end up drawing parallels similar to this movie. Then it was time to get our beauty sleep for the coming day.

Thursday, May 8th
“Mission Accepted”. These words were the only thing going through my head preparing myself for the start of the weekend. Our mission today was to beat IUPUI and we prepared like any other game. Together as a team we started the preparation with the video that we watch before every series. We then kept it going by bumping the speakers as loud as it could go and we jammed out to the music in the trailer that was our training room on wheels. When it was time for warm-ups, I felt relaxed and could tell my teammates were as well. We took the field with IUPUI up to bat first and after two innings IUPUI was up by two but then our game was suspended because of rain. They immediately got the tarp on the field. We had a quick talk from Darren (Mueller) in the dugout and then we left for Buffalo Wild Wings. During this surprise lunch break, we found out our game was pushed back until 3 p.m. due to rain. When we finally got back to the field to warm up for the second time that day, we were like a whole new team. You could see that the team was relaxed, but you could feel the excitement, energy and the raw intensity of wanting to play. The game was truly a battle from start to finish, it was a game that sadly we came out on the losing end. After the game, our coaches said that they were proud of us for battling and coming back, but now it was crunch time because we couldn’t afford to lose. After the talk and dinner with the team, we all went back home and it was lights out for the night.

Friday, May 9th
Game time was pushed back to 3 p.m. against USD due to the rain. Due to the late game time, the coaches and team met up to eat lunch and talk before the game. As we ate our subs, we talked about the day before, the details of the game and what it was going to take from here on out. The main thing was taking everything one pitch, one play, one throw at a time because we were only guaranteed one more game unless we won. We couldn’t look ahead, just had to stay in the moment and play all in. Winning one series was our mission and we did just that against USD that afternoon. It was a good game start to finish because we were focused, intense, LOUD, and ready to play. From the first pitch to the last one, we gave it all we had -- which guaranteed another game.

Saturday, May 10th
My alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. for our 9 a.m. game against Western Illinois. After eating, dressing, treatment, and video, it was our time to warm-up. Our warm-up today was like any other day but I could sense my teammates were jacked up to play. Running on six hours of sleep at best, we were in the zone, listening and dancing to music while staying focused and working hard whether we were taking cuts on the tee or catching tennis balls in the field. This focus showed during our game against Western Illinois. We played with passion and cheered non-stop with hunger throughout the entire game. With a 9-1 victory, we moved onto the next game against IUPUI.

With some rest, bananas and protein bars to fuel us, we were ready for this game. Our coaches stressed that we had to think of this as a one-game series. Just one game! We couldn’t look ahead because nothing was guaranteed except this game. We came out swinging and let nothing through the infield. Although IUPUI had runners on, Krista (Menke) did a great job from keeping them from scoring. Like the game before, it was a battle from start to finish. However, unlike Thursday we came out on top, ending the game with a 6-0 victory.

Yes, we were tired, we were sore, our throats hurt from yelling so much, but we were so amped up and ready to play, we said bring it on. After being rushed sandwiches to eat, they started the game. The innings started to blend together (probably because we had already played 13 innings), but we kept attacking. Even though, we had big hits from everyone, we couldn’t seem to get a run across. However, we were creating the same problem for Fort Wayne. Then with a big double by Cheyenne (Garcia) and an error by the centerfielder on Jay’s (Ortega) hit, we scored our first run and then another with a sac fly by Amanda (Grable). We ended what was our closest game, but with a 3-1 win. Championship game here we come.

Sunday, May 11th
Championship Sunday. My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. in order to get ready, eat, go to the training room, watch our pre-game video, and then head off to the field for warm-ups. After putting our cleats on for what could be the last game of the season, you could feel the energy and excitement in the dugout. We weren’t nervous knowing that this team beat us last year because we were ready. We were prepared. I don’t even think it crossed anyone’s mind because like Jamie (Trachsel) always says, “the game never changes, the magnitude might, but the game never does.” With our nails painted red to symbolize championship game time, we worked to complete our mission. Home runs from Logan (Moreland), Jackie (Stifter), Amanda (Grable), and Jay (Ortega) helped us put some runs on the board. Strikeouts from Krista (Menke) and plays from all nine players helped us stay ahead. We were cheering so loud, for so long voices couldn’t help but crack and falter, we sounded like a bunch of sick dogs, but adrenaline, passion, and hunger for the win, it didn’t stop us from fighting.  After seven innings of great softball, we won 12-5.

The entire team stormed the field after Cheyenne (Garcia) threw the ball to first for the final out. We did the awards presentation and took pictures, then went to eat as a team. It was truly amazing. We knew how much work and how hard it would take to come back to win it. After playing five games, three of those back-to-back-to-back, Krista (Menke) throwing over 300 pitches, Jay (Ortega) squatting for countless hours, the entire team giving 110 percent every at bat or play, we came out the champions. Just knowing that all the long practices, countless reps, mentally and physically draining workouts, and the complete grind were worth it. It is a feeling that is indescribable. All I can say is this; the best feeling about this win today was the fact that I am guaranteed one more. One more game with a team that has done so much and worked so hard to come this far. One more week with two amazing seniors that have not only accomplished a lot but have taught me so much as well. One more chance to win with the team that surrounds me today. This mission was accomplished, but it’s time to start a new one, one that will carry us to Minnesota to play Auburn this weekend.
Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships, May 15-17 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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