Amanda Jager
Ferris State junior first baseman Amanda Jager puts down a tag on an Upper Iowa player during Monday's Rebel Spring Games action in Kissimmee, Fla. (Photo by Sandy Gholston).

Overcoming Adversity Is A Lesson Learned By The Bulldogs

By Sandy Gholston

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The art of learning how best to handle adversity – and some people would contend that it truly is an art form – is a trick all teams in all sports must come face to face with at some point.

Generally speaking, however, battling back from adversity typically is necessary in the face of defeat – as was the case for Ferris State University, on the softball diamond, on Monday. The Bulldogs rode a wave of momentum to a 6-0 lead against Upper Iowa at the Rebel Spring Games inside the Osceola County Softball Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. Then, in almost a puff of smoke, the six-run lead vanished as the Bulldogs’ bats went ice cold and their defense suddenly struggled. As a result, combined with some more confident plate appearances, Upper Iowa surged back to escape with a 10-9 win at the expense of a clearly and visibly shaken and disappointed Ferris squad.

After that loss, the Bulldogs were faced with an almost must-win scenario against Pfeiffer in the day’s second and final game in central Florida. And, as has been the case much of the spring, there was no shortage of drama as Ferris rallied from a two-run deficit to snag a 4-3 win, in eight innings, over Pfeiffer to improve its record to 4-2.

The come-from-behind victory – which helped the Bulldogs hold their record above .500 on the season – proved to be yet another lesson in the value of maintaining consistency in level of play.

“I thought we kind of let ourselves get down in the first game and (Upper Iowa) took advantage of our lack of intensity and came back on us,” explained senior third baseman Katie Kraai, who was pleased to see her Bulldogs bounce back from a bitterly-disappointing defeat. “In the second game (against Pfeiffer), we definitely came out with a much stronger defense and the most important thing was we had a higher intensity level than we had at the end of that first game.”

Surrendering what seemed like a solid six-run lead proved an eye-opening experience for the Bulldogs who battled through extra innings but ultimately fell short in an effort to steal back a win.

“I think one of the biggest lessons we learned in this game is you can’t ride the roller coaster when you’re out there in games,” said Kraai, who had two hits in five trips to the plate with two runs scored, against Upper Iowa, and had a double and single in the win over Pfeiffer. “We found out we have to keep our intensity at a high and even level and make sure we fight through the mistakes and the tough hitting times.”

This lesson will be an important one.

With a majority of teams from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference having traveled to Kissimmee (including Grand Valley State, Wayne State, Saginaw Valley State, Northwood, Lake Superior State, Ashland and others), the last two weeks, many of the teams have had a chance to conduct an early scout session on much of the competition. In addition to what appears to again be a tough GLIAC race shaping up, the region has an early appearance of being up for grabs as the Bulldogs hope to be in the mix. That, among other reasons, is why the loss to Upper Iowa – a squad Ferris was confident it should have defeated with a 6-0 lead – was a painful reminder of one of the enduring lessons of sports. That lesson is a team must stay intense and focused at all times to stay ahead of the competition.

And, as Kraai said, with the strong competition the Bulldogs are likely to face in the months to come, working out the bugs in Florida is more important than ever.

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