THE TOUGHENED TRIO: SENIORS REWARDED AS HOOSIERS UPSET PURDUE, 3-0
1!-- ... -->
Bloomington, Ind. -- It's much easier to persevere when someone's slapping you on the back instead of talking about you behind it. The single-dimpled livewire from Vegas, fair-skinned doctor-to-be from Alabama, and gritty 57-inch sparkplug from the Chicagoland have so often heard the whispers about the losing that their brains feel like call centers at a Jerry Lewis telethon.
Yet, today, shortly after 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and noon in places such as Vancouver, Washington, it was Indiana University senior softball players Stormy Hanson, Katie Joy, and Heather Suca, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder, along with their parents, near the pitcher's circle to face the loyal few. The critics had long left the building.
In spite of the trickling rain that had just begun dropping from the grayish sky at the beginning of the Senior Salute, each one stood a little taller than they did when they poured their cereal this morning. Each of the three breathed much more easily and deeply than they had just a moment prior, when their intrastate rivals from West Lafayette were one swing away from exchanging a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 Sunday Special. The tears flowed a little more easily. The hugs lasted a little longer and were a lot tighter. The applause in their ears sounded so much more like Yankee Stadium than Silverado Field.
You see, the Toughened Trio could have quit on many an occasion. Those morning runs don't hurt quite as much when you are vying for a championship. But when a team is losing, every step pulls a hamstring and every breath punctures a lung. The jammed thumbs and broken fingers could have healed just as well in front of the television instead of on a trainer's crimson-cushioned table. Another browbeating by a coach or fellow player could have sent any one of them over the edge. When is enough...enough?
The thing is, and while it is not always the case, teams who lose more than they win work awfully hard too. When a player is a freshman, losing stings but there is always next year. But after that, the clock starts ticking. The next thing you know there's only two years left in your career. Before you know it, although you are blessed with a darn good new coaching staff, you are halfway through your senior season and reality punches your dream in the stomach as you realize that, irregardless of the 19 victories you will end the season with - the most by an Indiana softball team since 1997 - you're going to lose far more contests than you win.
Ultimately, however, losing often has a way of being a much better educator than winning, particularly when you know you could have quit -- maybe should have quit -- time and time again. Heck, after losing 6-0 at Purdue yesterday afternoon, "Do we really have to go through it all again today? Let's just get it over with," could have been the mantra. But, that's really not The Toughened Trio's style.
Hanson, the do-it-all-and-do-it-well catcher struck out in her final at-bat today. She could care less. Earlier in the game she tallied the eventual game-winning run when she scored from second base on a single by junior Abby Stark. While significant and memorable, that fact is also less than dramatic. To Hanson, it is much more significant that a freshman from Auburn, Ind., Lauren Hines, hit a two-run rocket in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend Indiana's lead to 3-0, and that another freshman, Megan Roark, earned her fourth victory of the season in the circle for the Hoosiers. The torch has officially been passed.
There are seniors who are lauded just because they've completed their career. Often, their accolades are overblown. Many have caused more problems than they are worth. They are like an eyelash that you just can't remove from underneath your lid. But in the Toughened Trio, while there have certainly been struggles, you have a group that has endured and persevered through more bunk than a college sports team should have to face.
Would the three trade it all in for more wins? Maybe. Would more wins have served them as well? Probably not. It isn't a coincidence that Suca and Hanson wish to be educators and that Joy wants to work in medicine. Senior manager Sara Vogt -- a gem in her own right -- wants to coach. All four plan a future of service. It's painfully obvious that they have been well prepared to give more than they receive.
Indiana has three pitchers on its staff. Today, all three combined to earn the shutout. Indiana has 13 available players on its roster. Today, all 13 played and contributed.
"I'm so impressed with their character," said Hayes, the talented first-year head coach. "The seniors learned how to finish. They deserved to succeed and they did. Before the season we began, we said that we wanted to play our finest game on the final day of the season. It's more theoretical than realistic. But the thing is, we did, in every phase of the game."
"They learned how to finish." Every workout. Every practice. Every game. Every season. "They learned how to finish." In the case of The Toughened Three, boy, did they ever.