June 02, 2014

My Championship Experience -- 2014 Baseball Edition

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


Fort Wayne senior Malcolm White writes about his experience at the 2014 Summit League Baseball Championship:

May 20, 2014
Departure set for 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 20, 2014.  My senior year is set to culminate with IPFW’s first trip to The Summit League Championships and possibly more. We said farewell to Fort Wayne for the time with hopes of returning with a Summit League title, bragging rights, and memories of a historic journey.

The bus was filled with excitement and anticipation as we boarded and got settled. This quickly dissipated as guys got settled as best they could in order to get some rest as we traveled through the night. With each movie that played more guys were snoozing.

We woke up starving and groggy, but luckily Sioux Falls wasn’t too far away. We stopped in Brookings around 1 p.m. to eat and practice at SDSU. It was nice to have food finally, but we knew practice would be tough. Nonetheless, with full bellies and stiff muscles from the bus ride we grinded out a productive practice.  We finished our trip to Sioux Falls and checked into our hotel.  This looked to be the nicest hotel that we had stayed in all year. I was happy to hear my roommates for the weekend as well. After settling in we showered and left for dinner shortly thereafter. On the bus ride back, we received the itinerary for tomorrow and returned to our rooms. We were each excited to get back to rest in a comfortable bed after our meal

May 21, 2014

I headed down to breakfast early hoping that I could get a light workout in before our afternoon practice. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was surprisingly good.  After my meal, I headed to the exercise room and followed that with a quick nap before we reported to the bus to leave for the field.

As we arrived to the field you could sense the excitement to be in a new environment. The independent league stadium of the Sioux Falls Canaries served as a great venue. With only an hour time frame to practice on the field, we moved along at a fast pace. We went through our batting practice routine and broke off into infield and outfield groups for drills. The field took some getting used to, especially for me and the other outfielders that would have to deal with the unique angles of the outfield wall. Nonetheless, this ended up being one of our most productive and energetic practices of the year.   

When practice concluded, we headed back to the hotel in good spirits, confident about our chances tomorrow. We relaxed for a while before getting ready to attend the championship banquet. I was admittedly slightly overdressed as I sported suspenders, a bold red shirt, and my best shoes. We were each happy for Carter DeBoe and Steve Lowden who earned First Team All-League honors. At the conclusion of the banquet, we returned to our rooms to rest and prepare for competition tomorrow. 

May 22, 2014

As I woke up today, it began to set in that these could be the last games of my college
career. Despite the emotion and memories from all the great times that I’ve had with this group of guys I composed myself in preparation for the game ahead.  As I worked through pregame, I tried my best to embrace the butterflies that came with playing in my first league tournament. A great pregame speech by coach got us focused as we got set to face the hard throwing right-hander from No. 2 Western Illinois. I led-off the game with a line-shot to left field that the Western left-fielder ended up making a diving play on. Nonetheless, our confidence was high as we traded blows all game with our league rival.  Unfortunately, the game did not end favorably for us as they ended the game on a walk-off single in extra-innings. After almost four hours, it was tough to lose a close game that way. “Next Page!” our coach exclaimed in his post-game talk. He was exactly right. We had no time to feel sorry for ourselves, not with our season on the line tomorrow.

Most of the team returned later to scout out the competition that we would face in our next game. It was fun to relax and watch for a change, especially on such a beautiful night under the lights. As we watched NDSU pull out the victory, we prepared our minds for taking on the No. 1 seed SDSU tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.

May 23, 2014

After a tough loss with our best pitcher on the mound, we still saw a good opportunity against SDSU to extend our season. I woke up around 6 a.m. and headed down for breakfast. I ordered a spinach, mushroom, and sausage omelet, which was a perfect way to start the day. We headed to the field for batting practice and pregame. Everybody seemed focused and ready for the challenge ahead. The game ensued, as we put ourselves in a three-run deficit that we wouldn’t overcome.

As those last two innings played out, many emotions ran through my head as I jogged out to center field for the last few times. I had one last at-bat. I had to make the most of it. Evan VanSumeren led off the inning with a double, advanced to third on a passed ball, and I followed with a single to right. Even with one last glimmer of hope, we fell short once again. 

The post-game mood was solemn, as we seniors realized that our college run was over. It was an amazing experience getting the opportunity to play with such a great group of guys.  As much as we hide our emotions, there was no holding back as we remembered the season that had passed. To quote my good friend Cody O’Neal, “All your life you dream of playing baseball with your best-friends in the world. I’m glad I got to experience that with this team and especially you guys (seniors). “

We stayed the night in Sioux Falls and departed at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Our journey had ended, but the friendships and bonds that I formed throughout my four years at IPFW will last a lifetime.

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