Oh, somewhere in this favored land …

Good hot, hot, hot afternoon!

Today’s story is about softball. If you know Ernest Thayer’s famous work, quoted in the title above, you already know the end of the story! The Valdosta State Blazers softball team stood on top the national rankings for a good portion of the season. Even though one of our star players was hit by a pitch in mid-season which resulted in a broken arm and a personal hiatus of six weeks, the team pulled together and maintained it’s position of excellence. During the final series of the regular season, it seemed like the wheels were just slightly beginning to come off. The hitting slumped, the pitching lacked its usual sharpness, defensive errors appeared, and base running miscues became troublesome.

If you’re a baseball/softball fan, you know that slumps are part of the long season and hope springs eternal that good will triumph over evil and the ship will eventually be righted and all will be right in the world! And so the Blazers entered the Gulf South Conference Tournament with high hopes. We finished the season in first place and thereby earned the right to host the six-team tourney. The friendly confines of our home park would surely secure another shot at the national championship (after all, we were runners up last year).

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

In a double elimination tournament, if you keep winning, you stay in the “winners bracket” until you lose twice. If you lose once, you are assigned to the “loser’s bracket” where each subsequent game is a possible elimination contest. Suffice it to say the Blazers lost … twice! Elimination was a reality! Eventually the Shorter University Lady Hawks were crowned GSC Champions.

But wait …

Now, in an entirely separate regional tournament, the NCAA II folks ranked the Blazers in the top spot in the South Region! AND, we get to host the tournament here again! Who says there are no second chances? This is the regional tournament that feeds the “super-regional” tournament which produces the sixteen teams that will vie for the national championship. This is BIG!

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

The region was split into two four-team tournaments, one here in Valdosta and the other one hosted by North Alabama in Florence, AL. Once again the format was double elimination – two losses and you’re out!

In the first game, the Blazers dominated Tuskegee 8-0 and talk around town was, “They’re back!” We went into day two in the winner’s bracket where we faced (guess!), Shorter University. Well, the Lady Hawks didn’t let their fans down and once again the Blazers were relegated to the loser’s bracket where they faced elimination. But wait … we won! We beat arch-rival Alabama Huntsville to get another shot at defeating the dreaded Hawks!

And somewhere folks are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

It was a blazing hot Sunday afternoon and we were faced with the prospect of having to beat Shorter TWICE to advance. You see, they hadn’t lost, but we had – so “one and done” for us! The V-town fans were out in full force hoping for a double-header.

Alas – no … We lost the first game, making the second game superfluous. Shorter will go on to play Florida Tech in the super-regional for the right to represent the South in the “Sweet Sixteen!”

But there is no joy in V-town — the Blazers now are out!

Of course we had a storybook season. The future is bright because we’re only graduating two seniors and almost all the the team will be back with value-added experience. We fans got to witness some incredible games provided by these talented young athletes. BUT – as I used to tell  my players and parents when I was coaching little league in Lubbock: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game … but, it’s a lot more fun when you win!

Thanks for a great season ladies – we love you!

PLEASE reply, comment, share, subscribe, like, and all that good stuff!  Thanks!  -JAS

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