May 20, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

The University of Indianapolis women’s softball team may be crashing the party that is the Division II Women’s College World Series, but the only remaining unranked team in the eight-team championship field is not just going to Salem, Va., this weekend to have a good time.

The Greyhounds will be making their first trip to the Division II Championship this year, just one season after the program reached NCAA Regionals for the first time ever, and head coach Melissa Frost-Fisher is ecstatic with the progress the team has made in the last two years.

“When I first got here we started talking to the ladies about regionals and the World Series, and part of it was getting them to understand that there is life beyond conference play,” said Frost-Fisher.  “The group of girls we have now is just outstanding, and we lost just a few players last year, so the expectation was to get back to regionals, then get to Super Regionals.  We’ve always talked about the World Series, but as we started playing (in the postseason), it really started to come to life and it became a realistic goal for us.”

After suffering a one-run loss in the Great Lakes Valley Championship game, the Greyhounds rolled through their NCAA Regional bracket, advancing to Super Regional action against Saginaw Valley State.  UIndy lost the first game of the series, but rallied for two wins, including a convincing 12-3 final score in the deciding game.

“Once we got in the conference tournament and started getting things together a little bit, I saw a completely different spark in the team that I hadn’t seen all year,” said Frost-Fisher.  “It was a spark that was much-needed and we had been waiting on.  They came together as a whole and came together as one.  Before we knew it, we were down one game at Super Regionals, and there was no hint of our girls giving up and no hint that losing the game was going to happen.  Losing was not an option.”

The Greyhounds are the only team in the field that won its Super Regional series on the road, something they have adjusted to this season after losing their on-campus facility when the university decided to build a dormitory on the site.  The squad moved operations to play at the Indiana Central Little League facility, where they played all of their home games.

“We did some renovations to that field and it actually turned out great,” said Frost-Fisher.  “It’s a great ballpark and great environment, and I think we brought some life back into the youth program there and put a spark in things for them as well.”

The experience gave the team a different perspective on the game. 

“One of the first things I told our ladies was that there are still seven innings, and still three outs in an inning … the bases are still 60 feet apart and the pitcher’s mound is still 43 feet away,” said Frost-Fisher.  “We talked about keeping the game simple and nothing changed from venue to venue.”

The Greyhounds’ last three losses have all been by one run, indicating this team is not done fighting until the very end.

“We have really come together, and I think that some of the games that we’ve lost by one run have brought us even closer together as a team,” said junior pitcher Megan Russell.  “We’re coming together at the right time.  Maybe if we would have gotten together like this at the beginning of the season who knows what we would be doing right now.  Everybody has the same goal, and now it’s the national championship.”

“We lost some ballgames early – some close games and some that we were in right until the end,” said Frost-Fisher.  “I honestly believe that made us stronger.  We have always preached that we may be down, but we are never out.  We’ll always find and way or go down fighting.  I just tell them they need to play as every game is their last.”

UIndy kicks off the Division II Championship against Angelo State on May 21 at 12 p.m.  Angelo State was ranked No. 4 in the final regular season NFCA Division II Top 25, and won the NCAA title in 2004.

“We’re on a high from the win we had on Saturday, but we’re not going to take that and be satisfied just because it’s our first time going to the World Series,” said Russell.  “We’re going to take that and build on it and going to try to win this thing.”