The first time
I approached a big dusty diamond, I felt nervous, as I stepped
into the circle knowing everyone's eyes were on me. It was a
hot and humid day in July 2002, with temperatures in the mid
nineties. I could see people wiping the sweat that trickled
down their faces while they were waiting for the game to begin.
I was only eleven years old, and I did not know what to expect
of the game. I was three years younger than all the other
girls on the team and I was the starting pitcher. Not even a
year before had I begun my first pitching lesson. Now I was
pitching, for the first time in my life, in a fourteen and
under softball tournament which was held in my home town. I was
the youngest player on the team, starting in one of the most
important positions on the field. I had butterflies in my
stomach the whole half hour I was warming up. The game was
ready to start and the first batter of my career stepped to the
plate with a bat in her hand. My heart began to race. To me
this girl looked huge, about six feet tall, and she gave me a
glare of death as I prayed that I would not throw the twelve
inch yellow ball down the middle of the plate. If I did, I
knew it would be trouble. The ball would come straight back at
me and my teeth would be knocked out of my mouth. The umpire
gave me the signal that the game was on. My catcher gave me a
sign, fastball inside. I began my wind up, praying that
everything I learned would all come together for this first
pitch. As I released the ball from my hip, the girl made her
move, she swung, strike one called the umpire! Before this
moment, I thought softball was just a game to play, but after
that first pitch, I decided that softball was going to be a
major part of my life.
For the past
eight years I have been playing softball, and there is one game
that I will always remember. It was my senior year in high
school and my team, the Pine Grove Area Cardinals, was one of
the top teams to beat for the Schuylkill League Division. I
had been the team captain and so far, after ten games, we were
undefeated. Our record was 10-0 and we had just beaten the
number one team in the other league. We were now classified as
"the team to beat". This victory made our team excited, but
some people became extremely overconfident. They thought that
we were the best and did not need to improve anything about our
game. The following Wednesday, we were scheduled to play the
North Schuylkill Spartans at our home field. When Wednesday
arrived, I was anxious the whole day in school before the game.
I just wanted the school day to end so I could go to the
field. The last time we played the Spartans, we beat them 9 to
2 on their home turf. They had the attitude and determination
that they were going to beat us coming into this game.
The girls on
my team were confident that we would win because we beat them
by seven runs our first meeting. What no one took into
consideration is that they had practiced and improved their
game since the last time we faced them.
precisely 3:00 pm, and all of my teammates were at our field
getting ready to warm up. They were putting on their cleats
and I heard Brittanie say, "This game is going to be easy. We
killed them before. Why don't we ten run them and end the game
early so I can do homework and get ready for the boys game?"
So I turned
around and said, "It's a new game. It doesn't matter if we
beat them before. They had more practice and they are coming to
everyone else just said, "I guess." They all thought it was a
joke to even be playing this game.
I was pitching
that day, since I was my high schools starting pitcher.
Karissa, my catcher, and I walked over to the bullpen after
hitting soft toss, with the team, so I could start my normal
"get loose" routine.
talking about how our day went in school and we discussed if we
wanted to attend the baseball game right after our game or if
we wanted to go home and take a shower first so we did not
smell like sweat. I looked around and saw the rest of our
team messing around in the outfield and not taking warm-ups or
anything seriously. I began to get a bad feeling in my stomach
which was not normal. A feeling that it was going to be a
close game and the outcome would not be in our favor.
I turned and
looked at Karissa and said, "I have a bad feeling about this
game. No one on the team is taking it seriously. Look at them
messing around in the outfield. They have the attitude that we
will beat them like we did previously. And if no one takes it
seriously, you know coach is going to be upset. I never
experienced a feeling like this before a game."
replied Karissa. "If we don't play like we can, we won't have
off tomorrow. I think we need to have a talk before the game.
Tell everyone we need to play to our full potential. We can't
take them lightly. Anything can happen."
of the time warming up the feeling in my stomach would not go
away. Everyone seemed overconfident and I knew something bad
was going to happen.
up, the team came into the huddle before captains, Karissa and
I, were called to the field to go over the ground rules. In
the huddle I said with a serious face, "Everyone has to focus
right now. No more talking about what happened at school.
Everyone is going to be standing up on the fence cheering as
loud as they can until we score some runs."
and sophomores had the word fear written all across their faces
while the juniors just rolled their eyes. I wanted to strangle
the juniors for being disrespectful, but luckily, at that
moment, captains and coaches were called to the field. We
reviewed the ground rules and while shaking the opponent's
hand, I could tell they were determined to play. Karissa and I
ran back into the dugout, where the whole team came together,
and on the count of three we yelled "Three up, three down,
three outs" and took our positions on the field.
inning was about to begin. I stepped into the circle and looked
around the field. I could smell the hot dogs and burgers from
the concession stand and I could see the long line of people
waiting to get their food. As I threw my last warm up pitch,
I saw that the bleachers behind the backstop were filled with
fans and our whole spectator side was filled with people
sitting and standing along the fence waiting impatiently for
the game to begin. The umpire called for the game to start. I
retired the first three batters that I faced. I was feeling
pretty good about my pitching. My curve ball was breaking sharp
across the plate, my changeup was perfect, low and outside, and
my rise ball was rising like crazy, but that feeling inside of
me laid heavily in my stomach.
three outs, it was the bottom of the first and our turn to bat.
After four batters, there was one out with players in scoring
position, but none of them crossed home plate. Everyone on the
team thought that this game was going to be extremely easy, but
after the first inning, I knew the rest of the game was going
to be tough. If we could not score with one out and runners in
scoring position, how were we going to score throughout the
rest of the game? The next couple innings of the game continued
this way, three up three down. We had our opportunities but
could not score any runs.
seventh inning of play, the game went into extra innings. North
Schuylkill could not hit at all. For us it was different, we
would get on base, but we could not score any runs. The game
went into the tenth inning. In high school softball, when it
gets to the tenth inning, the rule book states that it is
played by an international tiebreaker. An international tie
breaker is when the last batted out, on each team, gets placed
on second base to start the inning. North Schuylkill was the
visiting team so they had the opportunity to score first. The
first batter bunted the ball right to our third baseman,
Keandra. Keandra, who is a small, muscular, brown haired girl,
screamed, "I got it." She picked up the ball with her bare
hand and snapped the ball off with her wrist as hard as she
could. Our first baseman, Miranda, caught the ball right
before the runners foot hit the base and the umpire threw his
arm up in the air and yelled, "Out!" That was out number one.
The runner who
was on second base advanced to third. The second batter stepped
to the plate. I struck her out in previous innings, so I was
not too worried. I got my signal from the catcher and I
started my wind up. After I released the ball, I could see, in
slow motion, the girl's hands on the bat slide down and she
squared. She attempted a suicide squeeze. Everyone on the field
yelled, "Bunt!" The bunt was laid a foot in front of the
plate. Karissa came out from behind the plate, grabbed the
ball with her bare hand and tagged the girl attempting to score
at home plate. There was an enormous cloud of dust that filled
the air and all of a sudden I could hear the umpire scream,
The crowd was
yelling. There was an enormous adrenaline rush that rushed
through us after the spectacular play at home plate. I
thought to myself, "Only one more out."
All of a
sudden I hear the field umpire yell, "Dead ball!" Everyone in
the crowd started complaining, "That was not a dead ball. You
aren't being fair blue. Stop trying to fix the game."
called time out and walked calmly onto the field in his gray
sweatpants and his camouflage shirt to speak to the umpire. He
asked the umpire, "How was it a dead ball? It was a perfectly
The field umpire replied, "The batter was out of
the batters' box when she bunted the ball. Therefore, the
batter is out and the runner that advanced needs to go back to
At that moment
my heart dropped. My coach turned away from the umpire and
called all of us into the mound for a pep talk. We could tell
from his facial expression that he was not happy and we
expected to hear a lecture. The first thing he said to us
was, "It's okay, we did this before right?" He then continued
to say, "There is a runner on third and we have two outs, no
hurt, you can do this. If they score we always have our
opportunity to get the job done. So take a deep breath and play
like you are capable of playing" and he walked off the
was running back to their positions, I thought to myself,
"Focus. All I need is one more out. I'll do it myself."
We had two
outs with a runner on third. North Schuylkill's number three
hitter was up to the plate. After a couple pitches the count
was 2-2, two balls and two strikes. Then she fouled a couple
of pitches off. My pitching coach called for the next pitch to
be a rise ball. By this time the fans were on their feet.
Screaming and cheering as loud as they could. I positioned my
fingers with the grip on the ball, took a deep breath, and
started my motion. Thoughts went through my mind "This is it.
The game can be over. She won't touch this pitch."
I released the
ball. It started to go up higher and higher. The girl swung
her bat and made contact underneath the ball. The girl at third
started booking for home while our shortstop, Jena, drop
stepped back and as soon as the ball was coming down stuck her
glove out into the air. I held my breath. All of a sudden,
the ball fell right over the top of Jena's glove.
shocked as North Schuylkill's team was celebrating. Coach, who
is in his fifties, went over to the ball bucket and kicked it
with full force scrambling the softballs all over the ground.
We still had an opportunity to score. We refocused and got the
third out of the inning. It was our turn to hit.
As we were in
the dugout getting ready to bat I said to the team, "Let's do
this right now. Show them who wants this more!"
batter approached the plate, she tried to bunt the girl at
second over to third, but that attempt failed. This resulted
in the first out. Our second batter was up and there was a
wild pitch. Everyone screamed, "Go!" for the girl on second to
advance to third. The next pitch came in and the girl swung
and hit a weak grounder to the second baseman for out number
two. With two outs and our weakest hitter up to bat, Cassie
Lapotsky, the North Schuylkill pitcher, got into the count of 3
and 2, three balls and two strikes. You could see the
determination on her face, for this pitch. She was going to
give it all she had. She started her wind up, pushed off the
mound as hard as she could and released the ball. I was pacing
back and forth in the dugout, knowing that this could be the
end of the game, trying not to watch what was going to happen I
turned to Karissa and said "let me know what happens."
My heart was
beating fast as everyone was watching in anticipation. My
whole team was up on the fence screaming, "Base Hit, Ball
Four!" As the pitch came in, everyone saw that it was going to
be high. Unfortunately the girl swung as the ball was at her
head and struck out. I turned and yelled, "No!"
Schuylkill fans went crazy; they had beaten us for the first
time in three years. They had just beaten the undefeated team
in the league which allowed them to advance in the running for
the Schuylkill league championship.
up at home plate to slap hands with the other team and say
"Good game", Karissa and I lead the team to the outfield where
we usually go after every game, center field. As we were in
our huddle waiting for coach everyone was speaking at once.
"Did you see coach kick the bucket?" "He is really mad." "You
should have heard what he was saying when you were out on the
I stepped up
and said, "Okay enough. Coach is not happy. When he comes out
here make sure when he is talking you are paying attention and
making eye contact."
At that moment
most of the girls that had sunglasses put them over their eyes
to avoid eye contact with him. We waited patiently as it took
coach approximately five minutes to join us in the outfield. I
had never seen him that angry in my whole life.
As he walked
out to where we were standing he said sternly, "Take a seat."
We all sat
down in a circle. Then he began to yell, "You played like the
bad news bears. None of you deserved to be on the field today!
You are a disgrace to Pine Grove Softball!" "You girls played
lazily, like you were going to win the whole time, and look
what it did. It bit you in the butt. You let a team who isn't
even close to being as good as you are beat you. This is going
to be all over the paper tomorrow morning "North Schuylkill
beats undefeated Pine Grove."
He paused. I
looked around and everyone had their heads down. In a
disgusted voice he began again, "I hope you're happy. You just
made it harder for yourselves to accomplish your season goals.
One more loss and you will not be able to compete in the
championship game. Congratulations, this is up to you ladies
now. I cannot preach any more to you girls. See you at
practice tomorrow and be ready to run" and he turned and walked
away from us.
That day I
learned valuable life lessons. If people are too overconfident,
by thinking that they are the best, bad things will happen. We
lost the game because the team did not play the way they were
capable of playing. But it also taught me that nobody in life
is perfect. I am not always going to be perfect because
perfect does not exist. I am going to encounter some hard
times and I am going to fail, but somewhere along the way I
It is a good
thing to fail every now and then. That game made the whole
team realize that nothing comes easy. We have to work hard for
the rest of the season to accomplish our goals. Most people do
not like knowing that they were defeated but there are things
that could be learned from that failure. The criticism that we
received after the game finally made everyone realize that this
was a serious matter and if we lost one more game, we would not
be able to play Minersville for the gold. We came to the
conclusion that this game was one loss out of the way; now we
were able to refocus and concentrate on the things we needed to
improve so we would not lose again.
The District Game
a person realize that people are going to fail in life but they
have to take the lessons learned to prepare them for the
upcoming battle. The way to do that is by hard work, teamwork,
determination and the strength to never give in.
loss, we had defeated Pottsville for the opportunity to play in
the Schuylkill League Championship, which we lost 2-1 the
previous year against Tri-valley, a school in Eastern
Pennsylvania. We were scheduled to play Minersville. This game
was on the front page of the sports section in the Pottsville
Republican and Herald, a paper in my home town. Minersville has
always had an amazing softball team and they were a single A
school. This year, we played them during our regular season as
a non league game and our team beat them about 7-2. So
Minersville was willing to seek their revenge.
We knew we had
to work hard, as a team, and that we could not rely on one
person to accomplish this goal. Each practice consisted of
working extremely hard and giving 100% until our coach was
satisfied with our performance, even if it meant practicing for
four hours after school. We worked on batting, swinging from
tees, softball toss, hitting balls off the pitching machine,
and we worked on defense, fielding ground balls cleanly and
making accurate throws.
That day in
school my one close friend, Scott, came up to me in my Animal
Science class and said, "Hey Hope, did you know that
Minersville had a pancake breakfast this morning and the theme
behind it was "Hope's Pancakes".
I did not
believe him because he likes to joke around about a lot of
things, so I said sarcastically, "Yeah okay. I don't believe
you. Who told you that?"
He said in a
serious tone, "Look." He showed me the text message his
girlfriend sent to him. It said, "We just got done eating
pancakes, they were yummy."
laughed. Could they have made it any more original? I talked
to Karissa, and she thought it was funny as well and asked,
"How immature can a high school team be?"
Schuylkill League Championship game was underway and around
2:30 pm, our coach bus was pulling into Blue Mountain High
School's field for our 4:00 pm scheduled time. As a team, we
unloaded the equipment from the bus and carried it to our
dugout. I instructed the people in the front of the bus to
wait till everyone is off the bus and we will walk over
together. While walking over, Minersville was staring and
making rude comments. We ignored them, got on our cleats and
started to loosen up with our pre game routine which was taking
a little jog, stretching, throwing, soft toss, and eventually
infield and outfield practice. Everyone on the team was ready
to put Minersville in their place because of the little pre
celebration that they had in school that morning. The game was
fifteen minutes away from show time, and everyone was nervous
but anxious and determined to beat this team. Karissa and I
went out onto the field for the rules like every other game. I
looked at Karissa before the other team came out and said, "Do
you think I should inquire how their pancakes were?"
"No, we will let them know after we beat them."
over the ground rules for the game, we shook hands with the
opposing players, and it was time to take the field.
Bottom of the
first inning, I ran into the circle and started throwing my
five warm up pitches, pushing and snapping as hard as I could
to get speed on the ball. After the first warm up pitch, I
looked up and saw people packing into the stadium to watch the
game. The spectator section is located on top of a hill and
when I looked up people were lining their chairs from the deep
left field foul pole to the right. There must have been over
200 people in attendance, which is a lot for softball,
especially for my small town. Spectators from surrounding
towns came out to watch the game, even the team we beat to make
it to the championship game was there to cheer us on. I
finished my last four pitches. The umpire called the batter
over. The batter stepped into the batter's box; I took a step
onto the mound, the umpire put on his face mask and said while
pointing to me, "game on!"
four innings for my team on the field were easy, three up,
three down. But we still did not score on offense. The fans in
the background were screaming and yelling, not only at the
game, but at each other. Minersville fans are extremely
arrogant and make rude comments. Not only were comments
directed to the parents, they were also directed to our players
on the team. "You got lucky last time." "We will show you how
to truly play softball." "Pine Grove softball isn't that good."
Even though the team heard it, we just laughed it off or
The game was
in the sixth. Finally our leadoff batter, after striking out
every time at bat, lead off with a walk. Our second hitter had
a sacrifice bunt, and I was walked. Our number four hitter
came up to the plate and on the second pitch, hit a line drive
to the outfield for a run to score! Everyone was screaming;
there was an air horn going off, our team was excited because
they said whoever scored first would win the game. But what
people say is not always correct. Minersville got their last
two outs of the inning and we were on the field, to make it the
bottom of the sixth.
As the batter
stepped into the box, I pitched the ball. She swung and hit a
short hopper to the third baseman. Keandra fielded the ball
and made a wild throw. The ball went flying over Miranda's
head at first base. The runner was safe. Fortunately for us,
she did not advance to second because Brittanie, our right
fielder, hustled in to backup the throw. Once I got the ball
back in the circle I turned to Keandra and said, "Brush it off.
It is not a big deal. We will pick you up."
you have to be able to trust other players on your team to get
the job done, and once there is an error made, you have to
shake it off and refocus. If someone's head is down, it will
affect the whole team, and that causes other errors to
The next two
batters I faced got out. The first batter got out a short fly
ball to center field, where our center fielder made an amazing
play on the ball. The other hit was to the shortstop where she
fielded the ball cleanly and launched it over to first base for
the out. We had two outs and only needed one more.
With a runner
on second, I took a deep breath and stepped onto the mound,
without making eye contact with the batter. I started doing
what I did best. After a few pitches, the count was 1 and 2,
one ball and two strikes. I thought to myself, "curveball
outside, she will never touch it." I threw the pitch and it
didn't break as far to the outside of the plate as I wanted it
to. The girl swung her bat and ripped a line drive to the
outfield which advanced the runner on second base to score.
Minersville fans were cursing and saying, "Pine Grove sucks!
Minersville is going to win it all." This comment gave our
team more of an urge to push ourselves. I struck the next
batter out and it was our last chance to score, before extra
innings would occur.
The game was
tied 1-1. The whole team was up on the fence cheering as loud
as we could. Our first batter hit a line drive down the right
field line for a double. Our second batter laid down a nice
sacrifice bunt, which let the runner on second advance to
third. We now had one out. The next batter up, who was one of
our better hitters, hit a week ground ball to the third baseman
for an easy second out. At this point we had a runner on
third, with two outs. My heart was pounding; it was our number
six hitter in our lineups turn to bat. I ran over to her and
said, "Ethel, take a deep breath. It's just another at bat.
Do the basic mechanics and everything will come together" and I
I could see
the nervousness and fear in her eyes. We were relying on her
to get the job done and she was a freshman. I took my position
at the fence. As Ethel stepped into the batter's box all of us
locked arms and screamed as loud as we could. As each pitch
went by, my heart started pounding harder and faster and my
throat became extremely dry. Ethel kept fouling pitches off.
On the 9th pitch after fouling off four balls in a
row, Ethel took the bat off her shoulders threw her hands at
the ball, and rotated her hips as hard as she could. The ball
hit off the bat and shot like a rocket into the right center
jumped up and down! Everyone was on their feet. Ethel's hit
allowed the runner on third to score. We were ahead 2-1. The
next batter struck out which made it the bottom of the seventh
inning. I ran over to Ethel as she was jogging off the field
from second base. I threw my arms around her and gave her a
"I told you
that you would do it!" The smile on her face was indescribable.
Now it was our turn to take the field; if they scored more
than one run the game would be over.
On the field
the first batter approached the plate. She hit an easy ground
ball to the short stop where she miss played it. The ball went
right between her legs.
I turned to
her and said, "Jena, shake it off and focus on the next
There was now
a runner on first base. It was no big threat, this had
happened before. The next batter bunted a ball to Miranda at
first base. She fielded the ball cleanly and tagged the runner
out. Now the runner was on second. I turned around and yelled,
"Got one!" while holding my finger up in the air.
batter hit a long fly ball to left field where our fielder had
to run back on the ball. I was thinking "Please catch this,
please!" At the last moment she stuck her glove out, tripping
over her feet as she sprinted back, the ball landed in the tip
of her glove. The runner saw it and she tagged up and headed
for third. Our center fielder positioned her feet and threw a
bullet to our third basemen. The umpire yelled "Safe!" The
girl beat the ball to the bag. As the next batter was walking
up to the plate I yelled "Two outs!" holding up my pinky and my
forefinger allowing the outfielders to see how many out we
As I stepped
onto the mound I knew it was all up to me to throw the correct
pitch. This batter kept fouling off balls; no matter what
pitch I threw, she would tip the ball with her bat. The count
became 3 and 2. I took a deep breath and looked at my
infielders who all gave me the signal that they were ready. I
stepped onto the rubber and positioned my fingers on the ball.
I got into my wind up and threw the pitch as hard as I could,
screw ball inside. The girl swung and put the ball into play.
The runner from third was booking home, while our short stop
fielded the ball. Everyone on the field screamed, "One! One!
One!" Jena took the ball from her glove with her right hand and
fired the ball over to first base. The girl was running like a
cheetah. The ball went into Miranda's glove right as the
runners foot was up in the air getting ready to hit the bag.
The umpire yelled, "Out!" Jena threw the girl out by one step!
We threw our gloves up in the air. I ran in to Karissa and
jumped on her, she gave me a big hug and while the rest of the
team was running to us she whispered, "Hopie, we did
The game was
over. All you could see were camera flashes and people coming
towards us in every direction and screaming their heads off.
Pine Grove Area Cardinals won the Schuylkill League
While we were
receiving our first place medals, all the parents started
talking about the pancake breakfast that Minersville had that
morning, making fun of my last name. I will never forget the
look on Minersville's faces when the one parent who had the
video camera said, "You just won the championship, what are you
going to do now?" Everyone screamed, "Go and eat
expression on the teams faces were priceless. They were so
embarrassed. Their faces turned bright red like a tomato. All
of a sudden everyone screamed, "Pancakes! Pancakes!
I will never
forget that moment. It was the best moment in my life. We
beat Minersville, our rival, and we made them feel so small
that their little secret of what happened in school that day
was out in the open. They were expecting to win the gold, but
we gave it all we had and proved we were the better team and
had to settle for second best, silver.
teamwork, we would have never accomplished this goal. If our
team would have put their heads down after the errors that were
made, we would have lost this game. It's the same in life.
People are there to support you when you need it. It taught me
how to be a leader and to trust that someone will be there to
support me, whether it is in school, on the job, or on a team.
With teamwork you could accomplish anything. As for our team
motto, "Teamwork: divides the task, and doubles the