So, natch, it's very hard to win a national championship, no matter the level, no matter the sport, and Division I fast-pitch definitely is no exception.
The Arizona State Sun Devils were defending champs going into this week's NCAA championships in Oklahoma City, though not necessarily the favorites.
But head Coach Clint Myers' squad was gritty, and after a late-inning loss to Alabama the other night, beat LSU on Saturday to set up yesterday's must-win game against Oklahoma.
The Devils had to win back-to-back to get to the championship series, a tall order against Sooners pitcher Keilani Ricketts, a hulking, sweet-natured southpaw who probably is the best pitcher in college ball (and hits the shit out of the ball).
ASU jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first, but it didn't hold up, as the Sooners eventually took a 5-2 lead with timely hitting and untimely Devils' defense, and then held on for the win.
Sun Devils' ace Dallas Escobedo is a very good pitcher, but a bit predictable at this point in her career--a sophomore with a national championship already in her back pocket.
She inevitably goes to the rise ball out of the zone when she absolutely needs a strike, and if forced to bring it down into the zone a hair can be fairly hittable.
We know this because we have chased many a rise ball over our three-plus decades in the game. It is the pitch of doom for many a fastballer, believe us.
All in all, though, a fine season for Dallas and ASU, far better than it was for our alma mater down I-10 in Tucson. The Arizona Wildcats were the nation's dominant program for a generation, routinely winning national championships.
Now, the Cats are just a solid program in the middle of a high-level pack. Winning the regional a few weeks ago won't cut it for Arizona coach Mike Candrea.
A few end notes:
We've never spoken to Hillary Bach, the senior right-hander for ASU who pitched so well this year, including a huge shutout over LSU on Saturday to eliminate the Tigers. But there can be no one in college athletics with a better attitude, period.
This is a gal good enough to have been the stud (or is that studette) on just about any women's Division I team in America, but had the misfortune of sorts to be on the same squad as All-American Escobedo.
Watching the College World Series on TV, we could not help but marvel at Bach's team-first-and-only attitude, cheering from the bench like a true champion. We only wish that we had been such a mensch (look it up--cool word) when we were playing college baseball.
She is going places in life, of this we have no doubt.
Second note, this one to Coach Myers.
Lighten up, man You looked like an uptight old man when the TV reporter threw you a softball (the slo-pitch kind) during the in-game interview.
We know you are an excellent coach, as your track record proves in a glance.
But, jeez,just because someone asks you something silly about what your team might have left in the tank for the homestretch innings doesn't mean you have to jump in her grill for asking a "hard" question.