Valuable life lessons offered in softball victory

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

The old proverbial message from the Old Testament hit me flat in the face this past week. The most difficult personal hurdle I’ve ever had to overcome occured when I ended a two-and-a-half year relationship with a woman I planned to marry because the distance apart got the best of us. While the adverse situation might have built over time, the final blow delivered a shock and a feeling of abruptness that was hard to fathom. It still is.

Still reeling and trying to process the sudden life change, I got back to work, and Tuesday night, I sat in a press box for a softball playoff game. Albany came into town to meet the Vidalia Lady Vikings, and I watched senior pitcher Taylor Rodgers put together one of the finest softball performances I’ve seen in quite some time. Entering the seventh inning, Vidalia held a 4-0 advantage, and Rodgers had 12 strikeouts and counting.

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The Lord giveth.

Inexplicably, Albany began to hit bloopers that fell perfectly in between Vidalia’s infield and outfield. After five bloopers were hit, Albany tied the game at 4.

The Lord taketh away?

Just when you think it’s safe to assume something is destined to happen, life throws you a curveball, or in this case, disables Rodgers’ curve and offers bloop singles that drop right outside of the infield.

“This has to be the best, worst game of Rodgers’ career,” I thought. “Rodgers was well on her way to securing a shutout win, and now, suddenly, her senior season could end in this fashion? Life is cruel.”

The Lady Vikings battled to make it out of the inning, but the bats were flat in the bottom of the seventh. The next three innings were three-up, three-down innings for the Lady Vikings, and we entered the 10th inning still notched at 4.

Rodgers’ arm was relegated to throwing strictly fastballs, mounting 168 total pitches in the game.

An Albany single, a double and another RBI single gave Albany a 7-4 lead. During that stretch, Rodgers delivered a pitch and fell to her knees, grabbing the back of her neck. After taking a mound visit to collect herself, Rodgers regained her composure and finished the inning.

By the look of it, many of those who attended drew the same assumption in unison — this game was over. However, I studied the faces of the girls entrenched in the game, and I saw an inspiring toughness. The struggle was visible — a senior-led team watched a nearly perfect outing diminish before their eyes — and I could connect with that struggle because of what I had just unexpectedly lost. But instead of giving up and throwing in the towel, these high school girls gritted their teeth.

Rodgers was the first up to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning, connecting and launching a leadoff double over the Albany centerfielder. Two batters later, Katelynn Bertleson delivered an RBI single and Megan Naquin followed with a single of her own. However, the next batter struck out, giving the Lady Vikings two outs, down 7-6 in the final inning of the playoff game.

“I’m not going to lie there was a moment when I doubted we would win,” said Rodgers, following the game. “When we were down to two outs, I just didn’t know. I should have had faith, though.”

Vidalia’s Mallory Wheeler stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on. Up to that point, she was 1-for-3. Faced with undoubtedly the most pressure of her athletic career, Wheeler dug in and drove a blooper just over the right side of the infield, tying the game at 7. Katelyn McCarver, a pinch hitter, completed the comeback with an RBI single to give the Lady Vikings the 8-7 victory.

Sometimes adversity finds us when we least expect it to. If we allow it, it could cripple us, literally bring us to our knees in the midst of life’s toughest challenges. But for some, quitting isn’t an option. I learned that about the Lady Vikings. And they taught me a valuable lesson in return —if you continue to fight after getting knocked down, something extraordinary could follow.


JAKE MARTIN is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or