Emotions run high at tournament time
Tournament time has an air of finality associated with it and tears are part of the landscape when the season suddenly comes to an end.
Expectations run high for all the teams participating in post-season tournaments and thus, it can be a crushing blow when things go awry. Most of the area teams will have their seasons end sometime this week with the lucky few advancing into the later rounds of section or state competition.
For some of the area softball teams, the dream of a state tournament berth has already died. This was the case for Lyle/Austin Pacelli and Southland in the subsection last weekend at Todd Park.
It seemed like the fun was over before it started for the Rebels and Athletics. Yet, the expectations for these two teams were vastly different and the post-game emotions reflected that frame of mind.
For the Rebels, it was an up-and-down season with an 0-12 start setting a somber tone. But the Rebels played well at the end of the season and they were a scrappy bunch in the playoffs.
Getting the lowest seed of the seven teams in the subsection didn’t hamper the effort given by the Rebels players. In their first game, the Rebels played second-seeded L/P very tough and lost by only one run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Although they didn’t get out of the elimination game on Saturday morning, the Rebels once again gave their fans a good show. Trailing by four runs in their last at-bat against the Goodhue Wildcats, the Rebels scored three runs and nearly pulled off a big comeback.
That’s why when I ran across a couple of the Southland players in the parking lot after the game there was little remorse for the season now past. The never-say-die attitude of coach Greg Schulte and his players gave them plenty of hope for next season.
In fact, that was the comment I heard from the Rebels players while they headed for the exits. "Wait till next year, because this team is really going to do some damage in the tournament," is a paraphrase of the sentiments echoed by the Southland girls.
It was only a couple of years ago that the Rebels advanced to the section and came within one game of going to state, so success isn’t unheard of in the Southland program.
Tears for L/P girls
Sentiments were far different in the L/P dugout after a pair of heart-wrenching losses finished the season on Saturday. The devastating defeat to the Blooming Prairie Blossoms has already been well chronicled, and that will only add to the bitterness of future rivalry games between those two teams.
There were a number of seniors on the L/P team, including star pitcher Nicki Svoboda, who saw their season come to a sudden halt against the Randolph Rockets. After going on the road to beat the Rockets during the regular season, it was almost unthinkable that L/P would lose in a rematch on their home field at Todd Park.
When the Rockets eliminated the Athletics for the second straight year, the girls in green-and-black were overcome with emotion. The harsh reality of tourney time had hit home for the L/P seniors and tears flowed freely on to the diamond dust. It was a good season for L/P with a second-place finish in the Southeast Conference, but it ended far too soon.
More thrills to come
The focus now shifts to the big schools as the Class AAA softball tournament gets rolling on Thursday.
The seniors from the Austin Packers also have high expectations and hopefully, this week won’t culminate in tears for them.
Baseball tournament action also begins for the Class A schools this week in Austin.
The Lyle/Pacelli boys have a chance to make amends for another losing season when they take the field this afternoon at the Riverland complex against Goodhue.
The Southland Rebels captured their first ever Three Rivers Conference, South Division title and are the second seed in the subsection.
The Rebels and the top-seeded Blooming Prairie Blossoms waged an epic battle in last year’s tourney and they’ll likely do so once again in the subsection title round.
Maybe the wind will be blowing out for the championship game on Memorial Day and fans will get the chance to see the power hitters do their thing at Seltz Field.
Scott Kolb is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.