Getting to the World Series is always tough, but the Angelina College Lady Roadrunners' route to the tournament has bordered on crazy.
Forget the regular season and regional tournament; for a team clicking on all cylinders - AC won 26 of its last 29 games - playing games and beating opponents has been the easy part.
The tough part has come with trying to get to Utah.
Scheduled to depart on Monday, the team instead found itself in the midst of first, a flight delay due to mechanical issues with the aircraft, then an outright flight cancellation because of severe weather in the area. The Lady Roadrunners, coaches, and staff spent all night and the majority of Tuesday morning piled up in Houston's Intercontinental Airport awaiting a flight reschedule.
Each player carried her equipment bag around the various terminals, chomping at the bit to get back to softball. Once they finally found a hotel at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the players learned their luggage was still on hold in the airport. They slept a grand total of five hours dressed in the same clothes in which they'd traveled all day.
When they finally reach their destination in St. George, Utah, the players will have little to no time to practice on the tournament fields. AC will play its first game at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday against 7th-seeded Southern Union State (54-8) out of Alabama. AC (37-11) enters the tournament as the 10th seed.
On Tuesday morning, as his team gathered in a hotel lobby -after a mere five hours of sleep - head coach Mark Mattson simply laughed off the numerous complications experienced by his Lady Roadrunners.
"They're not worried about not getting to practice," Mattson said. "We don't think that hour or two is going to make that big of a difference. They're just ready to play, and I'm pretty sure they'll be ready to take out some frustrations on the ball once we start."
The Lady Roadrunners have shown they're not concerned with whomever the opponent may be. In April, AC managed to knock off three nationally ranked teams - all of those teams residing in Region XIV, clearly one of the toughest regions in the country. With their ability to hit the long ball-- to the tune of 59 homers just this season - the Lady 'Runners feel they're in every game down to the final out.
Two of their three wins in the regional tournament occurred in the team's last at-bat, with one of those a walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh. With the pitching and defense holding teams to an average of four runs per game, Angelina College's ladies feel they can compete with anyone.
All they have to do is get there.
The NJCAA will live stream all tournament games. Viewers can watch the games live by visiting http://www.njcaatv.com/softballchamp/