Softball Shoots for the Moon in CC Tournament

Friday, May 2, 2014 - page 2

Ever since she was a little girl, Colleen O’Donnell has wanted to go to the moon. Although she plans to work in human resources or as an elementary school teacher after she graduates from Muhlenberg, if she could pick any job, it would be astronaut.

Colleen O'Donnell
O'Donnell, who splits time between catcher and shortstop, enters the tournament on a five-game hitting streak in which she is hitting .583. She hit a home run for a 1-0 win against Dickinson in the 2011 CC playoffs.
O’Donnell’s out-of-this-world aspirations have become an ongoing joke for the Mule softball team for the last four years, resulting in a couple of lifetime bets that would have her collect a million dollars from one of her teammates and have her coach serve as her maid if she ever makes it to the moon.

This weekend, however, O’Donnell has a more Earthly goal – winning the Centennial Conference championship.

For the second year in a row, Muhlenberg is the host for the CC playoffs, which begin at 10:00 tomorrow morning with a game between third-seeded McDaniel (25-13) and second-seeded Haverford (24-9). The Mules (23-11) follow with their opener, against fourth-seeded defending champion Washington (26-11-1), and the double-elimination tournament continues with two more games tomorrow and two or three on Sunday.

Whether going to the moon or winning a softball tournament, the all-important first step is getting off the ground.

Last year, the Mules’ aim for a sixth CC championship was pretty much scrapped on the launch pad when they lost to Washington, 3-2 in their first game. Needing to win four games in two days to claim the title, Muhlenberg won one but was eliminated a game short of the championship round, and the Shorewomen went on to celebrate their first title on Muhlenberg’s home field.

Erica Wenzel
Wenzel singled and scored the first run in a 4-1 win in the first game of this year's doubleheader against Washington. She also drove in a run on a squeeze bunt in the nightcap, an 8-0 shutout.
“I think that first game is one of the most important games of the season,” said O’Donnell. “It puts you in a great place moving forward in the tournament. It would be a great feeling to beat Washington especially after last year. We are really pumped to play them in the first game.”

O’Donnell feels that the experience of last year’s playoffs will be a big benefit this time around.

“That was one of our biggest downfalls last year – only one of our classes had postseason experience,” said O’Donnell, who (along with fellow seniors Kelly Kline and Erica Wenzel) was on the 2011 team that won the CC championship and played in the NCAA Tournament. “There are a lot of distractions, and you’re playing competitive teams for two days straight. It’s a lot mentally. Now three of the four classes have that experience, and that will be to our advantage.”

The level of competitiveness promises to be extremely high this year, as the four playoff teams were separated by just one game in the standings (Muhlenberg and Haverford at 12-4 and McDaniel and Washington at 11-5). It’s the first time that has happened in league history. Of the six doubleheaders between the four teams, four resulted in splits. The entire league was very competitive, with a record six teams winning at least 20 games.

The NCAA regional rankings reflect the wide-open nature of the tournament. Three of the teams are ranked in the top nine in the region, and Washington, the lowest seed in the CC playoffs, is the highest, at No. 6. Muhlenberg is ranked seventh, and Haverford is ninth.

“Anyone can win. We’re all so close,” said O’Donnell. “It’s just basically who comes ready to play. We do have a lot of talent, but you still have to come out and play your best. We learned that on Saturday.”

In their regular-season finale on Saturday, the Mules were swept at home on Senior Day by Franklin & Marshall, two days after getting swept by regionally ranked Misericordia. That disappointment will give the team a little bit more motivation – and a learning experience – as it heads into the postseason.

“We can definitely learn from our mistakes from last week and move forward,” said O’Donnell. “We’ve talked a lot about it. We remember our successes, and we remember our losses, learn from them, and then let it go.

“We just have to get back to basics. It’s not about hitting a home run or making a diving catch. It’s doing the little things right, and that’s how you win.”

In other words, one small step by a Mule could lead to one giant leap for the team.
Click here for the tournament page.