Sunday, May 27, 2012

Someday they will

Hoping to do for Night Ranger what some Arizona DJ did for Sheriff in 1988. (GOOGLE IT everyone except @NUHF!)

I am not paid good money to come up with words at times like this. But I am, contrary to what you might think reading my Twitter feed, just about speechless.

Several hours after coming agonizingly close to what would have been, by far, the biggest victory in the history of Hofstra athletics, I have no idea how to put the Flying Dutchwomen's flirtation with a berth in the Women's College World Series, and the pair of 2-1 Super Regional losses to South Florida Saturday that ended their season, into proper context.

Part of me wishes I could just give this the who-what-when-where-and-how wire service treatment and be done with it. But something that stings this much, and made Hofstra fans care so much, deserves more than straight wire copy.

In particular, the five Ws would do a disservice to the Flying Dutchwomen, who were so close to flinging their gloves skyward that we could taste the celebratory Tweets and feel the cotton of our College World Series T-shirts, and to the mercilessly cruel twists of fate that have them flying home this morning instead of boarding a flight to Oklahoma City.

A team that was as close to perfect as possible heading into the Super Regional—the Dutchwomen won 37 of 38 games in the 45 days leading up to Saturday—and needed to win just one more game to make the World Series instead saw its season conclude with two one-run losses in a span of six hours.

The Dutchwomen left an average of seven runners on base in 54 games prior to this weekend but stranded 31 in three games in Tampa. They left 11 on in Saturday's first game, when the Dutchwomen had the go-ahead run in scoring position five times, including one runner at third, in the first eight innings and had the winning run at second with one out in the eighth. After South Florida scored twice in the top of the ninth, the Dutchwomen twice loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning.

"If we could have gotten one key hit…" Dutchwomen coach Bill Edwards told reporters at the postgame press conference. "We were leaving runners at second and third, bases loaded, time and time again. It's obviously a credit to the pitching, but we've been here before and it's amazing how you get on a run and you win so many games because you're getting those key hits.

"And all of a sudden you get in a situation where we had the same opportunity today in both games that we've had in the last 40 games of the year. And it's amazing how this game—how we really have no control over the game."

It's also amazingly cruel that the one person who controlled Hofstra's fate, and did more than anyone could have possibly asked in order to get the Dutchwomen into the World Series, was the one who not only took both losses but made the final out in each game.

In 19 years of following Hofstra athletics, I have never seen an individual performance as gallant, inspiring and noble as Olivia Galati's effort Friday and Saturday. To simply write Galati threw all 27 innings this weekend doesn't do her justice. She threw all 11 innings of the longest Super Regional game ever Friday night, then another nine in Saturday's opener, then all seven in the elimination game that started 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

Most of us will never comprehend nor know how tired Galati had to be out there as the sun beat down on her Saturday, yet her facial expression never changed as the pitcher Edwards calls the Dutchwomen's version of Secretariat willed her way through 328 pitches over 25 hours.

I am loathe to use the word heroic in the sporting context, but Galati this weekend came as close as anyone will ever come to deserving that adjective. It was an honor just to watch it, for those of us at home as well as in the Hofstra dugout: Edwards called it Galati's performance the greatest he'd ever seen in 44 years of coaching.

"Tops. Top," he said. "Championship games in hockey, football, softball. Tops, right here to my left. Number one."

If life was fair, instead of unnecessarily cruel, there would be four more days of wondering how far Galati could carry the Dutchwomen and marveling at how Edwards got the CWS trip he so richly deserves. Now we must wonder if the Dutchwomen will ever get this close again.

The last time the Dutchwomen were within one win of the College World Series was 2004. Long time ago. Galati is back next year for her senior season, which means the Dutchwomen will be very, very, very good once again, but the NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot. A run at the College World Series is as much about a draw as it is talent.

And as always, at some point, the advantages Everyone Else has are too much to overcome. But couldn't they have been too much to overcome later this week instead of yesterday, when South Florida was able to swap out pitchers Sara Nevins and Lindsay Richardson and utilize pinch-runners and benefit from the stellar defensive play of LSU transfer Jessica Mouse?

It is easy to lapse into what-if mode at moments like this, and kind of cathartic to do so. But it would not be fair, to either us or the Dutchwomen, to let sadness and disappointment overshadow what was derived from the run to the edge of the College World Series.

The softball team gave Hofstra 15 well-deserved minutes of fame. After the Dutchwomen were the subject of features in all the local papers as well as some national outlets in the days leading up to the Super Regional, New York sportswriters Steve Serby and Peter Botte and New York Giants PR man Pat Hanlon Tweeted about the three games.

"I told the team 'We gave Hofstra University more press in two weeks than they're going to get in the presidential debate, which is probably going to last a month,'" Edwards said. "But that's what athletics can do. And that's how proud I am of these kids and how far they've taken this program."

The poor people who follow me on Twitter now know all about Flying Dutchwomen softball (262 softball Tweets the last two days, give or take 5,000, will do that) and have hopefully boarded the bandwagon. We know of at least one new fan: The daughter of loyal reader and very good friend @NUHF declared Hofstra her favorite softball team because her Dad's alma mater, Northeastern, doesn't offer the sport.

And the flurry of text messages I sent and received after the second loss reminded me, once again, of how good we have it as Hofstra fans and how we make up for with our passion what we lack in numbers:

"I'm in tears."
"Never more proud to be a Flying Dutchman."
"I can't leave my laptop—still trying to get closure on Facebook, watching press conferences, etc. Once I shut down laptop, it's all over."

"Sometimes this game is unbelievably wonderful to us," Edwards said. "And days like today, it's cruel."

For now this joins the litany of near-misses that keep us all awake at night, from those we recall vividly over the past two decades to those that happened when we were barely out of diapers, such as the Flying Dutchmen basketball team's narrow losses to Notre Dame and UConn in consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 1976 and 1977, or those that happened when we couldn't have identified Hofstra on a map, such as when the football team saw its unbeaten season end in the Division III semifinals in 1990.

Someday, if my wife and I have done our job as parents, our unborn child will carry the burden of yesterday as his or her own. It is part of the collective experience, from newborn to ninety, that bonds Hofstra fans, allows us to absorb the stings of these crushing near-misses and unites us in the belief that someday, the result will be different.

Yesterday wasn't our day. But someday it'll be a Hofstra team flinging gloves or basketballs or lacrosse sticks skyward after slaying Goliath on the national stage.

Someday they will. Someday we will.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

No comments: