In four years at Temple, I’ve played in various intramural athletics — floor hockey, basketball and flag football, to name a few. But it wasn’t until my final year that I tried my hand at softball. Subsequently, my roommates and I strung together an eclectic group of anxious competitors and fixed our hopes on a championship.
For me, the old glove was just as durable, but the game needed some tuning up. Three trial games in the regular season would serve as the much-needed revival — but three losses would do little to boost confidence.
Still, my compatriots and I longed for a little George Mason/Fresno State/Cinderella-type performance. Since everyone made the playoffs, the opportunity for redemption was there.
In the shadow of March Madness, we studied our own bracket — this time, a field of 28. There’s just something special about brackets, whether it’s the NCAA Tournament or an intramural softball tournament.
Sunday night, we took to the green turf blanket that covers Geasey Field’s playing surface. Were we the most skilled team? No. But we had some ex-ball players with talent and a few reliable bats.
Sizing up the opposition was never reassuring. We had played some uninspiring-looking athletes and been on the other end of some serious crooked numbers. But other than a setting sun in our eyes, things appeared promising.
After winning the coin toss, we elected to step to the plate first. A couple early baserunners set the table for our biggest bat, and he naturally drove in some early support. Another rip through the opposition’s porous defense would give us a 3-0 lead with which to take the field.
The hard part came next. Our defense lacked the stability of most teams, so getting through the bottom half of the inning unscathed was a rarity. However, solid plays at second base helped restore confidence.
A one-two-three offensive output didn’t sag our spirits. The five-run bottom portion did. Playing seven innings and minimizing errors was easier said than done, and we got a much-needed workout flagging down balls. After two innings, it was 5-3 “bad guys,” and two-thirds of my Gatorade bottle was drained.
We led off the top of the third inning by doing something we hadn’t done all season — rebounding from a tough inning. Three more RBIs helped secure a 6-5 advantage. But, like most intramural softball games, the runs show up in bunches.
Our resilient opponents rocked a few underhand tosses into all the right gaps. A few errors compounded the mess, and a nice relay home was botched at the plate. Just like that, our lead washed away, and the score was 7-6. It was a seesaw battle fit for Citizens Bank Park.
A hitless top of the inning and one-two-three bottom kept the game close. Our defense was building momentum, and the right side of the field bottled up the lefty-heavy lineup. The old Little League days were rekindled again — minus the tee and competitive sideline parents.
Things began to break in our favor, as our third three-run inning gave us a 9-6 edge. A couple players had trouble holding onto the bat — an honest mistake — and were promptly called out for the action. Fortunately, no umpires were injured, and for once, I wasn’t the one doing the accidental throwing.
A blistering line drive skipped through the deep fielder, and I cashed in by scoring a run in the top of the inning. The middle of the lineup also provided support, and our first “W” actually seemed possible. However, the 11-6 lead was tested in the bottom half of the inning.
With the bases loaded and two outs, a one-hopper to our left fielder (and ringer) landed in his glove. A snap throw bounced into our catcher’s glove for an out, preventing further damage. We took an 11-8 lead into the final frame.
The anticlimactic inning ended with a play that easily would have made SportsCenter’s daily “Top 10.” With the lead still at 11-8 and two down in the bottom of the inning, our left fielder came through again. A sprawling grab produced our first win and a bloody hand. The “turf burn” struck hard, but the celebration began.
It was probably the closest to a World Series win I’ll play in, but it was enough for me. It was also one of the thousands of intramural games happening all over college campuses this spring. The beauty of it is that anyone has a chance to win. For me and plenty others, the dream continues.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.