You know something, ’Cats? I really hate history.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s important to know where you came from, but if I had to choose between having needles put under my nails or writing a 20-page “objective analysis on world civilizations between 1500 and 1815” again, well, let’s just say the paper wouldn’t get written.
That said, history is often the most telling indicator of events to come, and in light of the meteoric rise of this season’s softball team to the top in the nation, I think a history lesson and a word of caution are in order.
I invite you to harken back to a distant time during the heyday of Linfield softball’s golden age. The year was 2007, and the ’Cats were red hot. En route to their first national championship in years, they were absolutely gelling beyond anything that women’s sports had seen in McMinnville. They broke Linfield and NCAA Division-III records; they roundly won the regular-season and conference tournament titles; and at the end of the day, they went home with the hardware.
Fast-forward to 2008, when everything came apart. The team had every reason to make some serious noise in the national scene and challenge for a repeat performance as national champions, but the repeat bid fizzled out during the postseason and the team came loose at the seams.
Everyone was disappointed, no one more so than the players themselves, but it was never
really clear why a team with so many returning members of the ’07 title run couldn’t make it happen the second time around.
Fast-forward again, this time to 2010. Like in 2007, the softball team caught fire and scorched the Northwest Conference, shattered nearly a half-dozen school records and came a few tantalizing innings short of claiming its second national title in four years.
Fast-forward one last time to the present. Like I said already, this team, which had all the core pieces of last season’s squad return, has been ranked No. 1 in the country all season long and is well on track to win a second consecutive conference title, as well as play deep into the postseason and, Lord willing, get that coveted trophy.
If, that is, ’Cats can keep their eyes on the ball instead of on their numbers. When I got the idea for this column, I poked around a bit and started putting together a picture of what happened back in ’08. Whispers from those in the know say that while the Wildcats looked good on paper, locker room issues ultimately sank their success. Specifically, players got drunk on their own talent and started playing to better their personal records and statistics rather than working cohesively toward a repeat bid.
As much as I wish it weren’t so, history is banging on the door this season. There is a frightening parity between the two situations in 2007-08 and 2010-11. On this season’s roster, we have multiple players in the top five in career home runs, RBIs, total bases and total hits. If those individuals don’t stay humble and read the writing on the wall, they might end up reading about another failed run in the NCAA D-III Playoffs in the Review in a few months.
Here is the question that will decide our softball program’s fate: Can this squad of sluggers remain focused on the big picture rather than on the records it is close to breaking on a school and national level? I would like to say yes, but then again, I’m known to don rose-colored glasses when it comes to my sports teams.
Ultimately, I think the drive to win the title after coming so close last year will win out over any personal missions once the stakes get cranked up come playoff time. At the end of the day, it’s up to these young women to write this chapter of Linfield history, for better or for worse.
Chris Forrer/For the Review
Chris Forrer can be reached at email@example.com.