Saturday, June 3, 2017

Storybook Finish for Aggie Catcher

The Texas A&M Aggies were full of stories before their postseason run began.

Celina Massey
Photo: Texas A&M Athletics
A super regional, come-from-behind win over Tennessee to advance to the College World Series put the spotlight on the Aggies on the game’s biggest stage. Who would have thought it would be a backup catcher with fewer than twenty at-bats on the year that would steal the show and be the talk of the World Series and the SEC?

Celina Massey started eight games during the season, the last coming nearly a month ago on May 7th. In each matchup, Massey caught sophomore Samantha Show. Show, a solid hitter as well as a pitcher, often hit for herself, leaving Massey as the token member of the lineup who was not in the batting order.

Massey collected just six at-bats as the season rolled on, working a walk twice and batting .500 the rest of the time; two hits, two RBIs, and two total bases made up her season’s line.

Entering the Women’s College World Series, Massey had not seen the field nor an at-bat during the postseason. She instead continued in her role of team senior statesman and clubhouse presence, a role in which she has made her own impact on her team.

Speaking of Massey and fellow senior Reagan Boenker, Hudek said, “They mean so much more than what everyone sees out here because we see the [Celina] and the Reagan that are in the clubhouse and the ones that are the most selfless people I’ve ever met…”

As the seventh inning rolled around in the Aggies’ loser’s bracket matchup against UCLA on Saturday, Massey held her place in the dugout as her teammates attempted to stave off elimination and live to “fight another day.” As the game wore on, UCLA held a tight 2-1 lead.

In the top of the seventh inning, after some controversy that seemed to light a fire beneath the ladies from Los Angeles, the Bruins broke the game wide open with a five-spot in the top of the seventh.

“I thought I blew it,” Aggies head coach Jo Evans would later say. “I just wanted her to play in the College World Series… I was upset at myself [in the top of the 7th]. Like, ‘why didn’t I think of that a bit sooner.’”

After all-American Riley Sartain struck out to start the bottom of the seventh inning, it was all up to the seniors. Boenker would pinch-hit first, Massey would follow and both would forever be noted in WCWS history.

After Boenker grounded out, Massey strode to the plate as what could be the Aggies’ last batter of the 2017 season and the Women’s College World Series. “I didn’t know what that at-bat was going to be like,” she said at the press conference following the game. “I just went up there hacking.”

On a 1-0 count, the senior backstop got ahold of a Selena Ta’Amilo pitch and sent it over the left field fence for a home run. The longball was her first this season and first in more than two years, as she had not put a home run over the fence since her sophomore season in 2015.

“After [I hit it], I saw them jumping and I was like ‘holy moly, it’s out,’ Massey said after the game. “I just got so excited with them.”

For her part, Evans was particularly enthused. “I was out of my mind,” she said. “In that moment, when you’ve got a kid [that] you love and respect and they go up and do that… I was just fired up. I was going crazy over there… to me, I’m like, this is what it’s all about.”

Massey’s teammates were as energized as their coach to see their teammate receive such a storybook ending. “... You better know we were going to be the first ones out to home plate to be cheering louder than she was around the bases,” Massey’s fellow catcher Ashley Walters shared after the game.

Though the game did not go in the Aggies’ favor, for Massey, the moment is not one that she - or thousands of softball fans - will soon forget.

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