My sports reporting student CJ Holmes is doing some impressive work on his summer internship.
A sellout crowd at Auburn University’s sparkling Jane B. Moore Field didn’t seem to mind an 11:00 am start, and they certainly didn’t mind the result. The Tigers broke open a 2-2 game with a four run sixth inning, keyed by third baseman Kasey Cooper’s three run home run, and held off the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns 6-3 to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
Here’s my recap from Auburn.
Below my video with reaction from this game is a brief rundown of one of the most unusual wins I’ve ever seen. But watch the video first, please.
This is one time a short video report can only tell part of the story. I have to be honest – I’ve never seen a softball (or baseball) game quite like Auburn University’s come from behind win over Louisiana-Lafayette in game one of their best-of-three NCAA softball Super Regional at Auburn, Alabama. The Tigers, ranked 4th in the nation and enjoying their first trip to the second round of the post-season in school history, appeared to have their hands full against perennial tourney contender, the 11th ranked Ragin’ Cajuns, who worked out of bases loaded jams in each of the first four innings.
In fact, Louisiana was cruising against the Tigers heading into the final frame with a 10-5 lead, despite Tigers home runs from Jade Rhodes (19) and Emily Carsone (18), partially because the RCs had four long balls of their own, including a mind-numbing NCAA record 32nd from Lexie Elkins.
But weird stuff happened. The Tigers got a bunch of walks with the bases loaded. A bunch. They scored five times in the seventh with five, count ’em, five bases load walks. One of them – with slugger Carson at the plate facing a pitching change despite a 2-0 count. The new pitcher, Christina Hamilton, entered the game directly form the dugout, having not warmed up for several innings. After her allowed eight pitches, she took two more to the third baseman, while the game waited to resume from a television timeout. The Tigers made sure the umps knew about the transgression, two balls were applied, and Carosone got the easiest RBI of her career.
In the 8th – after falling behind again in the top half – it wasn’t Auburn’s sluggers who did the damage. It was senior center fielder Morgan Estell’s RBI double that tied it, and freshman pinch hitter Whitney Jordan’s infield single that plated the game winner. It was the fourth time this season Auburn rallied from four or more runs down to win a game.
The Tigers (53-9) and Ragin’ Cajuns (42-11) finish their series starting at 11:00 am Saturday morning. I’ll have a recap of the series – and word on which of these teams will advance to the WCWS – on the blog tomorrow.
Dave Cohen was on the radio, calling Georgia State University’s first trip to the Sun Belt Conference baseball tourney since, well, yours truly was calling Panthers games in the early 1980s. Matt Stewart, an old friend and peer from those days, was there, too, prepping for his calls on ESPN3 the rest of the event. We were decades removed from the last time the three of us made fun of each other as young sportscasters growing up in Atlanta, on hand to watch our alma mater play the University of South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Troy, Alabama. Below you’ll find my video story, and you can keep up with the tourney by visiting the Sun Belt web page here.
I’ll keep you updated on the tournament through Sunday’s championship. And I highly recommend you watch and listen to my buddies calling the games on GSU radio and ESPN3 this weekend. USA and Texas State are the lone unbeatens in the tourney heading into Friday.
I began covering women’s college softball when I interviewed Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernandez with Team USA for CNN Sports back in the 1990s. Fernandez, while at UCLA, was as responsible as anyone for putting the sport on the mainstream map with her skill, personality and intelligence. She was an ambassador. Dot – who is a physician so we should now call her “Doc” – preceded Lisa by a decade at UCLA, and was the player of the decade for the 1980s. They were teammates on the first Olympic Gold Medal winner in 1996.
(NOTE: Below you can watch a TV feature about the softball Hall of Fame in OKC)
That historic Olympic title was claimed in Columbus, Georgia, just down the road from Auburn, Alabama, where this week the Auburn Tigers – coached by Clint Myers, a softball hall of famer in his own right – host the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in a battle of programs trying to make it to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. Auburn’s first-year coach won two national titles while at Arizona State and is trying to get his new program into the big show for the first time. UL-Lafayette is a perennial post-season participant, appearing in the tournament 25 times in the last 26 years, including six trips to the WCWS.
I have to say I enjoy covering women’s college softball as much as any sport. The reasons?
- Good, hard-nosed competition. There seems – and this is a generality based on mown experience – less nastiness and more camaraderie and love of the game.
- Team play: as a follow-up to the previous remark, players seem to care about the team, and that is not the case with sports where there is so much national attention that the hero-stroking of young athletes becomes absurd – and leads to absurdly inflated egos. (Not to mention absurd salaries for professionals and perks for major men’s sports stars.)
- The family environment. I love going to games where kids – boys and girls – and their parents run around the concourse and play. Play is what sport is about, isn’t it? The crowd is knowledgeable and – except for some colleges where student sections get a bit rowdy – there are very few drunks to ruin the fun for others.
- The players enjoy playing the game as a team more than as individuals. In pro sports, the fans are removed, for obvious reasons (not all good reasons). In major college sports like football the same can be said. This creates a disconnect from the realities of the people who want desperately to relate to them. College softball players in the US are extremely talented athletes and yet, they remain approachable.
Of course, all of these are observations based on my experience. With that said, I look forward to seeing which teams make it to OKC. The Tigers, playing in a super regional for the first time, or UL-Lafayette, a perennial title contender that has played in this round six of the last eight seasons.
It’s an exercise I came up with a few years ago in an attempt to underscore for young professionals that there is a large world out there of possibilities, career-wise, and that each marketplace is filed with stories and happy people. (jump to bottom if you’d like to see the markets)
So many students have yet to travel, or even step outside their comfort zone, that they are focused on their “home” market as the ultimate place to work. The problem is multi-fold. First, they may be from a large market, like Atlanta or Los Angeles, and their chance of getting “on air” or “hands-on” experience is less. They need to make mistakes, to learn and to grow. Smaller markets usually provide more opportunities.
Second is a continuation of what I said about making mistakes. Beyond that, there is no substitute for experience. At a time when they see beautiful people who are very young working the sidelines of games, they think A) that all of those people got the job just because they are beautiful (not true); B) that those sideline jobs are full-time and high-paying (most are neither); C) that those jobs LEAD to great gigs automatically (also not true.) Bottom line: those are experiences, but to have longevity in the business, man or woman, you need to have a broad skill base, a great reputation, work your tail off and learn, learn learn.
Here’s the assignment: each student was randomly assigned a DMA market (I believe it was somewhere between 60 and 130.) They were not to research a market they have lived in. We avoided the super big markets because that would defeat the purpose. We eliminated our local markets. They were then asked to create a WordPress site that included the following: pro sports teams you will cover, prominent high schools you will cover, colleges you will cover, famous people from the area (historically), prominent current sports figures, a general analysis of the marketplace (what type of people live there, what sports do they support, etc.), your competition in the marketplace.
What’s the point? There are many, many great places to live and work in the country. If you want to be a sportswriter/sportscaster/sports journalist, or work in any business for that matter, you may have to move to gain experience. I want them to be open to the possibilities for happiness and joy and life experience, wherever they are.
Interested in their work? Below are links to the market sites:
The above links were created and managed by the students and there is always the possibility they will delete them or change them.