By Erin Ashby
With three outs to go before the end of the final game of the Stanford Nike Invitational this past weekend, we found ourselves short of energy, low on luck and down on runs. A bottom of the seventh, game-winning comeback after trailing the Cal Poly Mustangs by a score of 4-0 seemed unattainable. After all, over the course of six innings, we had tallied only two hits.
Our chances looked bleak and the exhaustion from the previous four games this weekend had become evident.
But if anyone knew about last inning comebacks it was ‘Lang.’
Megan Langenfeld, better known as ‘Lang,’ is no stranger to the ballpark. Entering her first year as Stanford’s assistant coach, Lang has a resume unparalleled by the rest. Most noteworthy is her 2010 Women’s College World Series appearance in which she unanimously led her team to the title (although she might humbly disagree).
Lang carried UCLA both offensively and in the circle, hitting 12-for-17 (.706) with four home runs and nine RBIs, and finishing 3-0 on the mound. She was awarded the 2010 Women’s College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player and Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year, in addition to being a finalist for the USA Softball National Player of the Year award.
But the three-time All-American is best known for her bottom of the eighth walk-off bomb that secured a victory for UCLA in Game 1 of the WCWS against Arizona. With two outs in the bottom of extra innings, Arizona’s Kenzie Fowler threw a 65-mph screwball to the outside half of the plate that Langenfeld wasn’t going to pass up. She saw it early, kept her hips under her and drove the ball up into the night, clearing the centerfield fence and landing in the bleachers. UCLA won the game 6-5, and in the final moments of our game on Sunday, we needed something to the same effect.
Lang is a different kind of Lang on game days. She steps out of her humble, soft-spoken, reserved self, and re-embraces the championship competitor in her. She gets antsy, amped and emotionally invested in every play as if she were still taking the field and batting third in the lineup. Game-day Lang brings the heart and soul we sometimes lose sight of, and trailing Cal Poly in the bottom of the seventh reminded us of that.
If Lang said it was rally cap time, it was rally cap time. As Cal Poly’s Sierra Hyland threw her last warm up pitch of the inning everyone in the dugout started to un-velcro their visors. In contrast to the traditional way of wearing visors, rally caps call for upside down visors with the bill pointed towards the sky. Lang led the pack as everyone, including our athletic trainers followed suit. It gave the dugout life; the energy that we had so heartedly been missing earlier in the game.
With no outs, Bessie Noll and Hanna Winter were both able to reach bases on back-to-back walks. Tylyn Wells found a hole scoring Noll from second followed by another walk by Leah White to load the bases. After a fly out from Kylie Sorenson, Kayla Bonstrom hit a solid ground ball up the middle to cut the lead down to 4-2. Jessica Plaza went deep in the count drawing a walk and another run. But with the tying run only 60 feet away, a strikeout and pop-fly ended the game.
Nevertheless, our team learned a great deal from that game. It takes consistent effort, heart and determination to put a ‘W’ in the books. You’ve got to have grit and hunger, even in the most bleak of times. You’ve got to trust your skills and your ability to get the job done. You’ve got to embrace your inner ‘Game Day Lang.’
Contact Erin Ashby at eashby ‘at’ stanford.edu.