May 24, 2002 - by
Leslie Malerich Diary – Day Three

May 24, 2002

Day 3 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Ring, ring, ring, the time is 7:15 am; this is your wake up call. Once again it was another early morning for the team. We were meeting down stairs in the hotel lobby at 7:45 to leave for the stadium. I have been riding in coach’s van this entire trip and the first words out of her month as we were leaving the hotel were, “it’s time to make some headlines today. They are just like any other team we have faced.” It was great to hear that from coach, it definitely made the trip to the field a lot less stressful. But to top that, the ride was filled with some signing and dancing from the girls and even from Coach Graf. Man, she’s got a few good moves!

We got to the fields and basically followed the same routine we have been on for pre game warm-ups this entire season. We were sharing the field with UCLA and the whole time our coaches kept reminding us that they were just another school, with another name, and another mascot. You could tell they were trying to keep us as relaxed and calm as possible. During practice, a representative from Oakley came by and dropped off pairs of sunglasses to both teams. They were really nice glasses, a pleasant surprise before the start of the game.

Shortly afterwards, Kimmy and I went down to the stadium bullpen to continue our warm-ups. As we were walking across the field, all these little girls with their softball jerseys on were screaming our names and waving to us. They were so cute but this was certainly not something we were accustomed to on a regular basis. The whole time during pre game, we made it a point to stay relaxed and make ourselves feel at home. We knew we had a great chance to defeat UCLA.

Before the game, my dad gave me a pin that a friend of the families gave to him to give to me. Mr. Lucas gave my dad a pin symbolizing our catholic faith. I felt that I should have the pin on me during the game and placed it in my back pocket for good luck.

It was a surprise for the whole team to find out that we would be facing the Bruins ace, Keira Goerl. The whole time we thought we would encounter Amanda Freed because we thought their mentality would be to hold their best until the next round.

Finally it was game time and the stadium was packed. It was exciting to see our family and friend sitting right behind us, cheering us on. The greatest thing was that it seemed like everyone else in that stadium, besides those wearing the blue and yellow of course, were pulling for us to win. The game started and right off the bat, Shundra (Colzie) got on base after a throwing error by the UCLA third baseman. I could sense that error was a huge momentum builder for us. We seemed a lot more relaxed and the atmosphere on the bench was ecstatic. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on their mistake, but it definitely put our nervous at ease as we all took the field for the first time in our collegiate career at the College World Series.

UCLA got on the board first with a run in the first inning. Sure it was a little upsetting, but it was only one run. Come on, we had worse deficits than one run this season. We knew all we had to do was play great ball the rest of the game and try and keep them on their heels. The team gained a huge confidence builder in the fourth inning when Brandi (Stuart) scored the game tying run off yet another Bruin error.

For the rest of the game, I went out in the circle with the same pitching mentality as what I had in the Regionals. I knew that if I made good pitches, hit my spots and played solid defense as a team that we would have every chance in the world to win this game.
In the sixth inning, we ran into a 40 minute rain delay, which seems to be a reoccurring factor of us in post season play. In the rain delay at the regionals, Louie decided to start playing the telephone game to relax our minds and keep us loose. So now it’s a team ritual and we play it every time we are in a delay. We still haven’t gone from start to finish with repeating the same sentence.

When played resumed, we had our next best scoring threat in the seventh inning with runners on second and third. Bryttani (Lindheim) came in to pinch hit for me and it was so funny watching Brit at the plate. She is so small to begin with, but she looked like the size of a pea when she was standing beside the Bruins catcher Stacey Nuveman. We all couldn’t help but laugh. But we had to quickly regroup and hold them on defense, as Bryttani popped up to the infield to close out the inning.

We held them in the seventh and sent the game into extra innings. Finally in the ninth, it was our turn to make a statement. When Mo (Marier) stepped up to the plate, we all felt that she was due for a big hit. She had been swinging the bat well in her previous at bats today, and felt that she was one pitch away from connecting on a big one. And man did she finally connect. She hit a bomb to left field and the whole team rushed to home plate to congratulate her. As we were crowding home plate, Kimmy and I were yelling at everybody to not touch her until she crossed home. The last thing we wanted to do was make a mistake and the run not count.

Now it was our turn to hold them on defense, but of course we would have to face the heart of their order, their 2-3-4 batters. I was able to make a good pitch to Amanda Freed to get her to pop up to Tat (George). Their number three batter reached on an error, and then Nuveman stepped up to the plate. We didn’t take any chances with her and walked her. The next batter grounded out to short and moved the runners to second and third with two outs. Stephanie Ramos was the next Bruin batter and had a few good rips foul off me a couple of at-bats before. She lined a shot out to left field and Mo came up with a spectacular diving catch. Not only did she hit the game winning home run but she also made the game winning catch. When she made that catch, you would have thought we just won the World Series. We all ran out to meet her in left field and jumped all over her. We were so excited!

Afterwards was so crazy. Coach Graf, Monique, Brandi, and I were all escorted to the press conference on a golf cart with a bunch of security officers. On the ride to the press conference, I saw my mom and dad and they were so excited. They smiled and waved as we passed by on the golf cart. Then afterwards, we met up with the rest of the team and signed autographs for the kids and all the fans. We all signed so many autographs after the game, but it was so much fun doing it! One little girl, wearing an Oklahoma cheerleading outfit came and asked mine and Kimmy’s autograph. She was so cute that I asked to get a picture with her. As Kimmy said, “that was one little girl you could just eat up.” The best part about doing all of this it that we are here for the fans. We love our fans and all the support they showed us here today and back home. There was so much going on after the game, you really had to take a minute to allow everything to sink in.

Afterwards, the team stayed to watch a little of the Cal/Oklahoma game. I checked my phone messages during that time to find that I had 11 messages waiting for me. It was a lot of my friends congratulating us on our victory, which was pretty exciting. We then headed for dinner at the Spahgetti Warehouse. Oh man, the biggest mistake that restaurant did was put bread at our table. We went through at least 20 loaves of bread; I’m telling you it was some good bread! They had some great food, and we really enjoyed dinner.

We got back to the hotel and just began to unwind. It was such a long day filled with so much emotion. Now we get to go back on the field tomorrow and do the same thing against Cal. It will be nice to get back at Cal for what happened last year at the regionals in Tallahassee. The team is still handling things very well. We are going to have lunch tomorrow at you know where…Panera Bread, and wear the same uniforms we wore in the victory over the Bruins. That win against UCLA has given this team that extra boost of confidence and who knows where that will lead to next.

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