For unfathomable play calls, it ranks with Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl pass.
The University at Buffalo, the State University of New York softball team, struggling in an Alabama tournament Sunday afternoon, loads the bases in the second inning, down 1-0 vs. Florida A & M. Due up is Leandra Jew, the team’s hottest hitter, with a .300 average, 3-for-4 in the previous game.
So what does coach Trena Peel do? She sends up a pinch hitter who’s two aspirin away from the disabled list and has never hit a fair ball in Division I competition.
At this point, though, the script veers off from what went on at the mostly virtual University of Phoenix. The ailing bench-rider, Nikki Jacobs of Niagara Wheatfield, launches one far over the left field fence, just as she did in last fall’s Foliage League exhibitions.
UB coasts to a 6-1 victory and comes home having won two out of five.
Second-inning substitutions are rare, except a pitching change or a pinch-runner, unless it’s Trena Peel at the helm. “I’ll pinch-hit in the FIRST inning if I get a gut feeling,” she told Base Paths.
“I like to take advantage of opportunities as they come. I felt that giving Nikki a chance to pick up some rbi’s early in the game could help us create some momentum. It was great to see her hit a bomb. She went from a strikeout the night before to a grand slam.”
Nikki almost didn’t make the trip, due to a shoulder injury, and although she excelled at three positions last fall, did not take the field defensively. And in a lop-sided defeat the night before, she’d made one plate appearance, striking out.
“She works hard daily so it’s not a surprise that she’s getting results early,” Coach Peel said. “I’m very happy for Nikki. She got the job done when her number was called and that is what I am looking for in my freshmen.”
The grand slam condenses the Peel-Jacobs relationship. The former Falcon was almost overlooked despite excellent high school numbers but Coach Peel thought she was worth a try both in the big picture and small.
Unfortunately, this picture is not coming soon to a field near you. UB is heading toward Arlington, TX, Valentine’s weekend to cozy up to opponents as disparate as Incarnate Word and Ohio State. Home opener isn’t until March 28 and this year UB plays nothing at Niagara.
Another Wheatfield alum, infielder Caitlin Attfield, lit up the sky for University of Alabama Birmingham and came out of the weekend leading Blazer hitters at .375, including 3-for-3 over one two-inning span. It’ll be tough, though, to top the drama of Jacobs’ debut, grand whiff to grand slam inside 15 hours, a sure cure for a sore shoulder and a gutsy call Coach Carroll may envy.
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