One pitch. One swing. And the miracle was done right before our very eyes.
It was the college world series for women’s softball in Oklahoma City. Best two out of three games. Auburn facing the University of Oklahoma. It was do or die for Auburn as Oklahoma won the first game 3-2 the night before. If Oklahoma won, it was all over.
And at the end of Oklahoma’s first two innings, it appeared all over for certain for the Lady Tigers. They trailed 7-0 and were the victim of their own mistakes to that point. I just shook my head and murmured, “Well, they went farther than any Auburn women’s team had ever gone before.” At that moment I figured they had about as much of a chance of winning as an ice cube had of not melting on a Montgomery sidewalk in July.
But I was not wearing Auburn’s orange and blue this night. I was not chasing fly balls and sliding into second base. And the team I was pulling for was not thinking like I was.
The Oklahoma bats started having problems hitting Auburn’s new pitcher. The Auburn bats began to warm up. Slowly the young ladies from Auburn were inching back into the contest. Their left fielder made a sensational catch to rob Oklahoma of a home run and give Auburn more hope. Amazingly, the score was suddenly tied 7-7 and the game was headed into extra innings.
Oklahoma did not score in the top of the eighth inning and it was Auburn’s chance to jerk victory from the jaws of defeat. There was one out and the bases were loaded when second baseman, Emily Carosone, stepped to the plate. All that was needed was a hit or a long fly ball to bring the winning run home.
First pitch. The crack of bat on ball told the tale. It was solid, like when you swing an axe against a tree truck and the handle does not tremble because your swing was solid and true. As the ball left the bat you immediately knew the game was over because the trajectory showed a ball soaring into the Oklahoma City sky. The TV camera showed the ball heading toward the outfield wall between the players in right and center field.
And it suddenly disappeared. Over the fence. A grand slam homerun. Tigers beat Sooners 11-7.
It was Chris Davis returning a missed field goal in Jordan-Hare to beat Alabama in 2013. It was Ricardo Louis snatching a tipped pass out of the air to beat Georgia.
It was the stuff of legends. Emily Carosone will go to her grave remembering the sound of that one swing hitting that one pitch. Her teammates will tell their grandchildren about what happened this night. The grandchildren will look at a long ago picture of a group of smiling young ladies in uniforms and ask, “Grandma was that you?”
In this day when football coaches have contracts worth millions of dollars and when stadiums are ringed with ads for insurance companies and God knows who else there still seems to be a certain purity in women’s softball. More sport than business. Players are playing for the fun and thrill of the game, not because they see this as just a step on their way to “the next level.” Their cheers and shouts are genuine, authentic, deeply felt.
And sometimes they show us that the human spirit to overcome is real and tangible. And they teach us all a very valuable lesson.