Over the years I began to understand that sports are predicated on the following, 1, fundamentals, 2, flow and the ability to stay focussed when flow wasn’t quite happening. 3, grit and determination.
This Franklin Knights softball team has been displaying all of these things, especially en route to the program's first District 10 title. They took down the top three seeded teams from the number six seeded position.
Monday they met their next opponent, Elizabeth Forward, on a field at Slippery Rock University affectionately called the bowl.
They showed up early is preparation for warm ups and play right away. The game before went a little long, but the real issue was the weather radar.
They had to wait for a threatening weather system to pass. Then, as if that wasn't enough, when they were able to start they realized they would be facing a very good softball team.
Elisabeth Forward, from a little south of Pittsburgh, seemed to have the Franklin Knights number dialed in ready to go.
Each batter on Elizabeth Forward could see the center of the softball and they found aluminum to the yellow-green leather often. They started right off putting the ball in play.
Two key and unusual missteps in the first inning by the Knights set the tone. One was a ball taking a hop that the outfielder didn't get in front of allowing an inside the park homer. This put the Knights in an immediate 3-0 hole.
Then, when it was their turn to bat, the gritty Knights got right to it, a hard shot got passed the second base player. Then a sacrifice bunt was successful, but an unusual running error caused a run down and a throw out at third.
This game’s tone was set.
Franklin is tough - grit in their veins tough. But the Elizabeth Forward bats were unrelenting and when Franklin had a chance to do something positive, that bloody tone thing just kept hitting the nails a little deeper into the coffin lid.
No one was at fault for Monday's 15-0 five inning loss. Not the pitcher whose post season had been brilliant. Not the error in center field or a bobbled ball at first. Not a base running error. It wasn’t the coaches not preparing their team. None of that was at fault. This team just simply ran out of steam and the tone was set early on in a game that apparently wasn’t theirs to win.
This team is good and they should be proud at what they did this season. They just lost to a very good team who had the blessings of the right tone this day.
Based on Coach Winger's face throughout the game and post-game, this team wasn't a disappointment in the least. This team was something he and Franklin will be forever proud.