As I mentioned in yesterday's post, our coached told the team, "If we all play with the amount of courage and determination Shawn has shown in the past eight months, we'll do really well in this tournament." And everyone on my team did play with that courage and determination this weekend.
We started off the day by playing our rivals, West Virginia, in the morning. The defense behind my pitching was remarkable as we turned three double plays in the first three innings. In those three innings, they sent nine people to the plate and nine people were out. And it wasn't just defense that Pitt played...we did not let up at all while hitting. Final score... 20-0. (I was told that this was the only shutout in the entire tournament...but I haven't verified that.) We were on to the final four of the winner's bracket.
There we met last year's champions, Maryland, who was undefeated this season. Their team is full of excellent hitters and averaged over 23 runs a game this year. We battled them back and forth for seven innings and at the end of seven innings, we had to play another inning because we were tied at 8. The rule in extra innings is that it's one pitch. A strike and you're out, a ball and you walk, or you hit it. Pitt scored one run and we had the lead. Then we got two outs on Maryland. With a girl batting, I threw the pitch short and she walked. The next hitters were good and we ended up losing by one run. We were that one pitch away from a big upset. :-(
Now, we were in the loser's bracket facing Auburn. My coach decided to rest me for future games and put in a different pitcher. After the top of the first inning, we were down 7-0. So much for resting. I was back on the mound in inning number two. I guess the softball gods figured coming back from cancer wasn't enough of a challenge for me...I had to spot the other team some runs and then try to win a game. And my team backed me up...they hit the ball well and we ended up winning 15-10.
On to the next game vs. Tufts. Tufts was a good-hitting team (normally), but after 5 innings, we were winning 8-0. Again...my team was playing exceptional defense. We caught every fly ball and fielded every ground ball. I can't say enough about my teammates. We ended up winning 9-2.
Now, we were in the championship of the loser's bracket vs Maryland once again. This time I felt more at ease versus them because I had already seen them bat a few games ago. As I mentioned, Maryland averaged 23 runs per game this year. In this game, they scored 4. Unfortunately, we didn't score any and that was the game. We were out of the tournament. Losing two close games to last year's champions is nothing to be ashamed of. And we finished third overall in the entire tournament (out of 70 teams). That's pretty damn good.
I cannot thank my teammates enough for giving me my best weekend of 2008. They all gave it their all and they all played great. I had so much fun and it felt just like old times. There was no cancer patient out there on the mound this weekend. Instead there was a darn good (albeit scarred-up) player just playing his game. And the support didn't just come from my teammates. Players from other teams came up to me to tell me that they were in awe that I was even playing, let alone winning games. I heard people from the stands yelling out "go # 1" (my number) as I pitched. I couldn't have asked for anything better this weekend. Every muscle in my body is sore, now. But, I'll take it!