A change of pace

If you’re finding the NBA Finals boring, congratulations. I applaud your obviously sound judgment.

I also have a suggestion for you.

You could try watching the Women’s College World Series.

Now, I am a long-time watcher of postseason softball. My father coached high school softball (I may have mentioned that his Landrum Cardinals won a state championship in 1994) and my child plays it. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I rather liked the collegiate slap bunts, the moving of runners (do you know how hard it is to steal a base when you can’t leave the bag until the pitcher has released the ball?), the near-certainty that one run – and definitely two – meant victory, as pitchers overpowered batters at 60 mph from 40 feet away.

Y’all. It ain’t like that anymore. These women can knock the cover off the ball.

Yesterday (Sunday), I watched Auburn beat Florida State, 8-7, in extra innings in an elimination game. The Tigers went up 3-1 on Carlee Wallace’s three-run home run in the first, only to see the scored tied an inning later. The Seminoles then took a 4-3 lead before another Auburn long ball – a three-run blast by Jade Rhodes – made it 6-4.

Down 7-4 going into the top of the seventh, FSU tied the game again on – you guessed it – Cali Harrod’s three-run homer to right center. The drama finally ended on an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth that sent Auburn into the championship series against Oklahoma, which, conveniently enough, starts tonight at 8.

The Sooners, winners of a school-record 30 straight games, are led by freshman pitcher Paige Parker (36-3), who has won her last 26 outings and tied an NCAA record this season with four – FOUR – perfect games. Hey, I didn’t say the pitching had gone away.

If you do tune in, be prepared for lots of large ribbons tied around long ponytails and near-constant chatter and cheering from the dugouts. These things can border on irritating, but they also signify a team unity that I’ve come to appreciate more as I’ve watched my child build friendships in which the fun is more important than the final score.

That will not be the prevailing attitude tonight in the best-of-three series. Sit back, enjoy the drama that comes from both sides of the plate, and watch some first-class athletes fight for a national championship.

You can always flip back and forth to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup – a final which has, so far, put basketball’s big boys to shame.