Hey all, Kelsey Horton here with the latest update from the softball team! We are in the middle of a 10-day road trip to Alabama where we played for an SEC regular season title, are spending a few days around town, and then will play for an SEC tournament title. With all these exciting things happening there is so much to tell you all about!
To begin the road trip, we left Gainesville Thursday morning (May 3) on our way to Jacksonville to catch our flight to Birmingham, Alabama. It is always a pretty calm bus ride to the airport but as soon as we get off, things get hectic. The scene looks much like this: bags flying everywhere off the bus, plenty of equipment to carry, and 25 players and staff members scrambling to find which bags among the heap belong to them. Meanwhile, every patron of the Southwest Airline terminal was staring at in our Sunday best lugging 100+ pounds of gear around. You see, the softball team likes to travel in business casual attire to their destinations. That means that the two cumbersome team travel bags with the hefty team travel backpack sort of clashes with styled hair and heels. We like to look around at the shock-confusion-awe of the people watching us. While we wait in line for check-in, we like to joke about how close to the 50-pound limit each of our two allotted bags has come. I will just tell you first hand that packing enough clothes and uniforms for 10 days in 50 pounds is more difficult than it seems. Also, the weight of bats, helmets, gloves, batting gloves, cleats, turf shoes, and catcher’s equipment quickly add up to nearly 49.9 pounds every time. After checking in our two bags (three if you were assigned a ball bucket or screen to carry – upperclassmen usually get lucky here) we proceeded to the terminal where we waited to board our flight. Oh by the way, our 50-pound bags have wheels, thank goodness.
It was smooth sailing to Birmingham as most of us slept or read. We have a lot of avid readers on our team. We like to joke about turning our locker room into a mini-library because we borrow each other’s books so often, especially on long trips like this one. Once we arrived in Birmingham we went to baggage claim where again we saw the classic look on bystander’s faces when they see the mass of large team travel bags being unloaded off the conveyor belt and into the hands of a bunch of nice looking ladies. Did I mention I basically had to drag my feet to the bus because BOTH of my favorite shoes broke in the exact same place while walking from the airplane to baggage claim!? Let’s just say I wasn’t very fond of the state of Alabama at this point. After the 50 minute bus ride to Tuscaloosa, we checked into our hotel. We stayed about 20 minutes from campus because of their graduation ceremonies, and most close hotels were booked. We practiced at their field that night and ate some delicious food for dinner. We were all exhausted from the day and went straight to bed to get a good rest in before the next day.
Arriving at Rhoads stadium Friday afternoon, I had a feeling of excitement, anticipation and anxiousness.
We knew that these next three games were important.
We were ½ game behind Alabama coming into this last series of the regular season.
If we won 3, we would be the sole SEC champions.
If we won 2, we would be in a three-way tie with Alabama and Tennessee – all splitting a share of the title.
If we won 1 or 0, we were out of luck and out of the running.
We played great Friday night and posted at 4-1 victory against the number 2 team in the country and were back to being even with them in the SEC. The next day the game was on ESPN2 and unfortunately we lost 9-1, which meant we were back to being ½ game behind. Sunday was shown on ESPNU and we dropped a tough game 5-3 to the Tide.
We were not the SEC regular season champions this year and it is hard for all of us to swallow.
As you can tell, this is not my favorite part of the trip to talk about… but for now, we have our eyes on the next prize, which is the SEC tournament title. We will stay in Tuscaloosa for the next couple of days preparing for Thursday when we take on LSU in Tuscaloosa in the first game of the tournament, which is televised on one of the ESPN networks! Watch for the next entry to see how the rest of the trip concludes!