Roncalli High School’s Girls’ Softball Team
April 14, the Roncalli High School’s girls’ freshman softball team from Indianapolis, a team who had not lost a single game during its past two seasons, was scheduled to compete against a new opponent. Their opponent that day was Marshall High School, a team that was about to play their first game as a school.
Marshall arrived to the field with a set of mismatched catchers gear, a bag of extremely overly used gloves with no padding, 2 bats, 5 balls, and 2 coaches who had never played softball, one of which had never seen a softball game. The girls on the team showed up with no cleats, no sliding shorts, no long socks, no gloves of their own, no batting helmets, and no experience playing softball.
Upon their arrival and after speaking with Marshall’s coaches, Jeff Traylor, the junior varsity softball coach for Roncalli, learned that it was their first game ever, most of the girls had never previously played softball, and they had only been practicing for a week. He also saw that the inexperienced coaches weren’t sure how to fill out the team’s lineup card so he helped them. Then he offered to stay in their dugout and answer any questions that the Marshall coaches had and they accepted his offer.
As the game began, Jeff realized their opponents were not prepared to play. He could tell by the comments and actions of the players and coaches that the Marshall team did not understand the fundamentals of the game. Jeff spent time answering questions such as “which one is first base?” and “how do I hold this (bat)”. They didn’t know where to stand in the batter’s box, and their coaches had to be shown where the coaching boxes were.
After an inning and a half of girls not knowing where to stand in the box and their pitchers walking 9 batters, it was clear that the contest was shaping up as a mismatch between the teams. Traylor arranged a conference between Marshall’s coaches and the coaches of Roncalli’s freshman team. They talked about stopping the game and having the Roncalli team teach the Marshall players the game. Their coaches talked to the Marshall players about this but the Marshall players did not want to stop playing. “The Marshall players did not want to quit,” Traylor recalls, “They were willing to lose 100 to 0 if it meant they finished their first game.”
Roncalli’s coaches, Sarah Barna and Laura Laycock, offered to forfeit the game to avoid humiliating the Marshall team, even if that meant breaking their winning streak. That’s when the Marshall players decided if Roncalli was willing to forfeit for them, they should do it for themselves.
During the stoppage of play, Jeff was getting requests from many of the players on his JV team at Roncalli to come into the Marshall dugout and work with their girls on stance and hitting.
Then the Roncalli freshman team came over to the Marshall team, introduced themselves and took the field with the Marshall girls to show them positions, how to field a ground ball, how to throw, how to catch, and where to stand. Roncalli kids teaching Marshall kids the right batting stance, throwing them soft-toss in the outfield, teaching them how to play catch. They showed them how to put on catching gear, how to pitch, and how to run the bases.
Traylor notes “They were practicing hitting, pitching and fielding. I could see the determination and a desire [among the Marshall players] to just be better.” “One at a time the Marshall girls would come in to hit off of the [Roncalli] pitchers,” Traylor recalled As they hit the ball, their faces lit up. They were high-fiving and hugging the girls from Roncalli, and thanking them for teaching them [how to play] the game.”
“In sports, we’re taught that winning is everything, and being the best is what’s important. We’re very strong as a program at Roncalli. We win a lot of games. But this time, it was bigger than winning, bigger than the game. Our girls knew that. It was more important for them to be there for another person and help them.