Hours later, despite being exhausted, Ed Trochim just couldn’t fall asleep.
The Midway softball coach’s mind was still racing, his heart still pumping on overdrive. Earlier on Saturday, Trochim’s Pantherettes survived a pair of thrilling victories over Plano, including a 7-6 Maalox-requiring stomach-churner that ended with Midway scoring the series-winner in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“It was hard to sleep,” Trochim said. “I was tired, but the adrenaline was still going. … It was absolutely wild. Like a prize fight. I kept waiting for someone to throw in the towel.”
Midway was among several Central Texas softball teams that boarded a roller coaster for the ride through last week’s area round of the playoffs. These games featured more intrigue than Days of Our Lives, Grey’s Anatomy and The Bachelorette combined.
Like Midway, Lorena had to erase a one-game deficit in its Class 4A area-round series. The Lady Leopards recovered from an opening-game loss to Giddings in which they surrendered 14 runs to the Lady Buffaloes, to eventually shut out Giddings in the finale on Saturday.
The Robinson-La Grange series should have been sponsored by Under Armour, because every game was skin-tight. The Rockettes pushed through with a 6-3 win in the opener before dropping a 10-9 contest in Saturday’s second game. But they came through in the finale, scoring the series-seizing run in the seventh inning of a 1-0 instant classic.
Yes, Central Texas abounds with drama queens. When teams survive such cliffhanger endings, it can have a lasting effect as the season progresses, the coaches said.
“To me, the longer it went, the more we had the will to win,” Midway’s Trochim said. “I never thought we’d lose. I thought we’d win, just when. The kids just got stronger and stronger as the game went on. That’s big for confidence.”
Lorena coach Steve Dolezel thinks a series like his team had with Giddings proved something to his team.
“It shows that if we go out and play solid defense, get the pitching that we need, eventually we’ll get our chance to win,” Dolezel said. “After what happened Saturday, we understand that we’ve always got to be ready to play.”
Losing the opener of a three-game series is akin to a hitter slipping and falling on her way down the first-base line. You may be able to rise to your feet, but your margin for error in reaching safely decreases exponentially.
The key is taking one step at a time, Dolezel said. After his Lady Leopards lost Friday’s opener to Giddings, 14-8, he didn’t stress the importance of winning two games. Instead, he wanted his team to be ready to execute the little things – particularly with their gloves – in the second game. After all, you can’t win two until you win one first.
“That was my main message – ‘We can’t worry about winning two,’ ” Dolezel said. “All season long, our motto has been, we want to be 1-0 at the end of the night. Well, we had to win two on Saturday, but we don’t even get the chance without winning the first one. … We were able to make some adjustments.”
The backstory of La Grange-Robinson helped add even more drama to their meeting. Last year, Robinson was ranked No. 1 in the state and La Grange No. 2 when the teams squared off in the regional semifinals. La Grange ended up topping the Rockettes, 11-1, and eventually claimed the Class 4A state championship as well as the top spot in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings.
So last weekend’s area-round triumph delivered an extra measure of satisfaction for Robinson. Tyeann Johnson delivered the clutch hit that pushed home Amanda Marek with the winning run in the third and decisive game, and the Rockettes escaped with a 1-0 victory.
Even if it results in some sleepless nights, Central Texas’ softball coaches say they don’t mind the nerve-wracking, nails-gnawing excitement of a tightly contested playoff game. Especially when it goes their way.
“For me, the whole thing was I was just so happy for the kids,” Trochim said. “Seeing those smiling faces is what makes coaching so worthwhile.”