I began the week as always … rooting for The University of Arizona. By the final game of the championship series I found myself … rooting for both teams. Not because my loyalty had waivered, but becasue I found an even greater appreciation for all of the girls that game after game “NEVER GIVE UP.” Both UCLA and The University of Arizona fought hard all 7 innings of both of those games.

Here is what I saw and read:
1. As Kenzie Fowler kept getting called for illegal pitches, the web forums were going crazy. “Umps stink” “Why are they calling it now if they haven’t called it all year”. But what I saw in Kenzie was an unbelievable level of concentration and determination that spoke volumes “I’ve busted my chops all of my life to get here and no team and no umpires are going to take this away from me. If I have to focus on the batters and change my pitching motion I’ll do it.” And incredibly when everyone else thought it was over on day 1, she came back and delivered the gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen.

2. During the first game of the championship series I saw 2 teams battling out. Neither willing to give in. Then in the bottom of the 6′th UCLA struck what was assumed by many to be the winning blow. 2 runs to put them up 4-2. But what I saw on the field was the Wildcats take the plate with a completely different mindsight, one that said “Ok we need 2 runs to stay in so here we go.” Sure enough they not only got their 2 runs to tie, but they got a 5′th run after back to back homeruns. UCLA then came to bat after having being so high and then being knocked so low. They came to bat and proceeded to mount a mini-rally and tie the game up. So they moved the 8′th inning. Now boths teams had gone from 1 extreme to the other. They both made it evident that neither was willing to lose. So Arizona came to bat and before you knew it the bases were loaded with a hot hitter at the plate. Surely UCLA’s second string pitcher would pitch very carefully to her and try and get her to swing at some “pitchers pitches.” Uh no. She attacked her with the straight strikes, which completely fooled Arizona’s hitter and she struck her out. Never got the bat off her shoulder because she was stunned. So we head to the bottom of the eighth inning and UCLA’s starter pitcher came to bat after having been taken off the mound in the top of the 7′th inning. What would she do? Would she fold? Would she bow to the pressure? Would she admit defeat? Uh no. She would proceed to drive the ball over the fence and win the game for her team.

3. So we start game 2 with all of the pundits saying “Certainly Arizona will walk UCLA’s pitcher who completely killed them at the plate in game 1 and was hot the entire WCWS.” No doubt. Who in their right mind would pitch to someone who “owned” you only the day before? Well perhaps a pitching coach and a pitcher that are never willing to admit defeat. A combination that says “I am not giving in to you.” “I will not allow you to continue to defeat me.” Well the decision didn’t exactly go their way. With 1 girl on base they pitched to the hot batter/pitcher and sure enough … crack over the fence 2 run home run. Unfortunately
the decision to pitch to her didn’t go their way, but I admire the attitude and spirit in which it was thrown. Worse for the team was the fact that it was the final straw for this 19 year old, true freshman pitcher. So many tough fought games in the heat in a row. So much emotion, that she finally succumed to it all.

4. So The University of Arizona then had to bring in their second string pitcher and she didn’t have “her A game” or “UCLA was just in a zone” and they proceeded to ring up 7 runs. With the game 7-1 after 4 innings of play the web forums and facebook were hot with the pundits all throwing in the towel. Certainly the Wildcats were dead at this point. Not so fast said the team. “As long as we still have at bats we still have a chance said their commander. They mounted a comeback and put up 3 runs. 7-4. The next inning wasn’t kind to them at all and UCLA proceeded to score 7 more runs. Now facing a score of 14-4 certainly the Wildcat’s would just give up, roll over, play dead, pack their bags, the fat lady had sung. A little overly dramatic? What would you do in that situation? How could you dig deep down and continue to battle in a game where you only had 6 outs left and were down by 10 runs to a team that was clearly in “the zone.” I wish I knew the answer because I watched them battle, keep battling, and then battle some more. The final score was 15-9 and they did get beat.

It’s taken me nearly a week to write this because my heart is still aching. Not because of the loss of “my team” but because I feel I was blessed beyond belief to have the pleasure of watching the fight of the age. The fight of 2 teams that somehow despite all of the cameras, all of the emotions, all of the momentum changes and all of the expectencies just kept on fighting. As an instructor I can talk until I’m blue in the face, and often do, trying to encourage my players to never give up. But as long winded as I am, I could never paint a picture for my girls any more vividly than The University of Arizona Wildcats and the World Series Champion UCLA Bruins did during this series.

Category : Mental advice