Waking up on game day is the best feeling in the world. There is nothing like putting on my white long-sleeve Harvard-Westlake softball shirt and packing my red hair ribbon for our game after school. Throughout the day, I see my teammates, wearing the same long-sleeve, and we point to our shirts, exchanging an ‘ayyy.’ I refresh Instagram on my phone after every class to see if HWAthletics posted. I check the livestream website to see if HWTV is broadcasting, and when they are, I get even more excited.
But the morning of our game against Alemany High School is an extra special game day. It is senior day. In addition, the winner of this game will make it to the CIF playoffs, something we thought was improbable at the start of our season. Rather than putting on my long sleeve and packing my ribbon, I wear my Senior Day shirt and pack six red ribbons, one for each senior. Walking on campus, I am blinded by the red shirt, red pants and red socks outfit that my beautiful seniors are embarrassingly sporting, as per the rest of the team’s request. The quad is littered with promotional posters about senior day, begging for a huge crowd to show up and promising free tacos for attendees. The HWAthletics Instagram posts a picture early in the morning of all the seniors. I see their smiles and I smile
I love my seniors. So much. There are no other girls I would have rather run foul poles with, gone to eighth period lift with, ate Hot Cheetos with and carpooled to practice with for the past three years of my softball career. I have shared intimate moments and laughed uncontrollably with these six girls on and off the field.
Senior day is not going to be easy. Playing our rival, Alemany, and having to say goodbye to some of my closest friends is an emotional combination to say the least.
My usual carpool drives to the field, blasting our favorite throwback hype- up songs the whole ride. We pull up to red and black balloons all over the stands, fatheads of seniors faces on sticks and HWTV cameras set up and ready to broadcast. Everyone is smiling as we warm up for the biggest game of our season. Fifteen minutes before game time, we are called to the foul lines to honor our seniors. I scream at the top of my lungs as each senior’s name is announced and they get flowers from their parents.
We do our “H-Dub” cheer, followed by “three up, three down” and run out to our positions. I am pitching this game, and reassured by the white chalk circle that surrounds me. Whenever I feel nervous or excited on the field, pitching is all I want to do. But as I am warming up, I can’t help remembering the last the time we played Alemany during the first game of our entire season. We came out energized, ready to take on our rival, but as the game progressed, the energy dropped. We lost 7-0, mercied.
The first batter comes up to the plate and all the thoughts, pressure and nervousness fall out of my mind. It is game time. The first pitch of the game is a ball, great start. The next pitch, I nail the batter in the head with a screwball – oops. The sound of the ball hitting her helmet is equally matched by encouragement from my teammates, “Shake it off K! You’re good, you’re good.” The next batter gets on base on a fielder’s choice. There are no outs and I am facing the number three hitter. I pretend not to be rattled. The third batter pops up and the fourth grounds out. We get the third out allowing one run scored, one inning down, six to go.
We hustle into the huddle and cheer “hits!”. Following our lead-off hitter, who grounds out, I get a 3-2 count for myself. Loading up, ready to hit, I take the last pitch. It’s a ball and I take my base. The next batter hits a ground ball to the third baseman and she tries to turn two. I slide into second and hear the third base coach yelling at me “up, up, up!” The ball has been overthrown and I sprint to third, then home. 1-1 game. Our fourth batter gets the RBI and now we are up 2-1.
As the infield meets me in the pitcher’s circle before the start of the next inning, our senior first baseman, with a huge smile on her face, says “we are beating Alemany right now. On our senior day.”
The next six innings are excruciatingly slow but fly by at the same time. I am unconsciously pitching. The game ends 2-1 after seven innings and I can’t even believe it. Running out to right field to “We Are The Champions,” I have the biggest smile on my face and happy tears coming out of my eyes. Game day is my favorite day.