Small schools, big dreams

Mark Green
Mark Green

I never know where I am going to encounter a story of interest (at least to me). Pam and I traveled to Pineville, La., early in May to visit our third daughter Leah and her family. Some of you might remember her husband, Dr. David Moseley, who served as a county agent at the Booneville Courthouse for four years.

Pineville and its larger sister city Alexandria, La., are divided from one another by the Red River, somewhat resembling how Fort Smith and Van Buren are separated. Each has a college in it: Louisiana State University at Alexandria and Louisiana College at Pineville. 

As I have become more and more disgusted with major college sports, I have begun following the smaller college divisions – D-II, D-III and NAIA. I happened to notice that the Red River Conference of NAIA was scheduled to have their softball tournament at LSUA while we were there. It later was moved down the road to Louisiana College because of standing water on their field and LC has an artificial turf infield.

Louisiana College is currently in Division III of the NCAA, but are scheduled to move to the NAIA this summer. They have a very nice softball park that advertises their 2003 National Championship across the centerfield fence.

ABC used to have the Wide World of Sports program that ran on Saturdays, which was advertised as portraying “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” (Remember the ski jumper who wiped out coming down the slope?) Well, David, grandson Ian and I got to see both at Wildcat Park. It was a beautiful day for a ball game: Clear skies, temperatures in the mid-80s, and a good wind blowing toward right field.

There were three games on Saturday. First, the University of Houston at Victoria beat Our Lady of the Lake University to get to the finals against Texas A&M at Texarkana. Since they were in the loser’s bracket, Victoria then had to beat the Eagles twice to win the automatic berth into the NAIA playoffs. That was “the thrill of victory.” Victoria’s main pitcher was outstanding, keeping the opposition in check throughout their three straight wins.

I got to speak for a few minutes before the finals with Eagles’ head coach Marie Stone. This was her third season at TAMUT (not counting the COVID year) and she had built the program from scratch. In those three seasons, she had taken the team to the tournament finals each year, but the third time they were beaten down the stretch. That was “the agony of defeat,” especially since TAMUT had been 27-6 going into the finals and were heavily favored.

I was able to pull the home plate umpire aside between innings for a few minutes. He said he does not call any baseball games because there are some differences in the rules between the two sports and he would not want to make a critical mistake because of that. However, he does officiate softball games at all levels from high school through Division I. “I stay as busy as I want to be.”

A couple of items of note came up during the day. One of the bats snapped cleanly in two after contacting a ball, which I did not expect with the composite bats used in the college game today. Also, one of the TAMUT outfielders is named Katelyn Slamer (pronounced “slammer”), which is an appropriate handle for a good hitter, which she is.

We had a ton of fun in the sun watching kids who play for the love of the game.