SIOUX CITY | St. Gregory’s University softball coach D.J. Sanchez doesn’t mind at all talking about the so-called “Elephant in the Room.’’
After all, Sanchez has no choice, her team must square off with powerful Oklahoma City University in Sooner Athletic Conference play every year.
The two Oklahoma rivals have both qualified for the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series which concluded its second day Saturday at the Jensen Softball Complex.
And, St. Gregory’s, the oldest four-year collegiate institute in the state, has handed eight-time national champ OCU one of its just two defeats this season.
“The last few years the rivalry has gotten a little thicker and the competition is pretty intense,’’ said Sanchez, just before her team rallied to oust hometown favorite Morningside 9-6 in an elimination-bracket contest Saturday.
OCU, a glossy 61-2, risked that mark in its first Series game Saturday night against Marian (Ind.).
St. Gregory’s (47-6), the third seed, had been upset Friday by Southeastern (Fla.).
“Absolutely, we’d like to run into Oklahoma City again,’’ said Sanchez, “but that won’t happen if we play like we did against Marian.
“We’ve got great respect for Oklahoma City.’’
The Cadillac of NAIA softball is the top seed in the event.
St. Gregory’s, located in Shawnee, has lost three of four confrontations this season to OCU, winning the first 2-1. The two didn’t meet in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament because OCU was upset early by Texas Wesleyan, which then fell to St. Gregory’s in the title game.
Sanchez, is a graduate of Oklahoma University and played for the Sooners after growing up and graduating from high school in East Alton, Illinois (St. Louis area).
If St. Gregory’s and Oklahoma City are destined to settle state’s bragging rights, Sanchez’s team would have to win four more games in the elimination round, including a possible clash with Auburn-Montgomery, provided it loses to OCU in the winners bracket and OCU advances unbeaten from the bracket.
Tennis, anyone? (subhead)
| In case you weren’t aware, an All-Iowa girls tennis team named by the Des Moines Register included Jaci Cochrane of Fort Dodge. The daughter of North High grad Stu Cochrane, was a state singles champ as a Dodger freshman, spent her next two prep years in Kansas City and then returned to Fort Dodge for her senior season this spring.
She concentrates on doubles these days.
The naming of the team is interesting because to more than a few observers, the best player in the state doesn’t even compete in prep tennis.
Anna Alons, a Westwood High sophomore from Salix, doesn’t have a prep program to compete for so she remains active on the national USTA scene (and ranked in her age group) while being coached by North High grad Nabil Sorathia, now the teaching pro at Four Seasons in Our Town.
Sorathia was a four-time All-GPAC competitor at Morningside and a three-time state qualifier in prep tennis for North and twice a place-winner.
Alons, not incidentally, owns a victory over Fort Dodge’s Cochrane in USTA competition.
| While on the subject of tennis, you might want to pick up a great read by David Foster Wallace entitled “String Theory.’’
Mr, Wallace covers the sport with glittering highlights and “devastating lowlights."
To whet your appetite consider these observations about the game’s stars.
“(Andre) Agassi is a runty, squishy-faced guy with a weird-shaped skull and has the tiny-strided pigeon-toed walk of a school kid whose underwear’s ridden up.’’
“Richard Krajicek (former Wimbledon champ) rushes the net like it owes him money and in general plays a rabid crane.’’
“Roger Federer is Mozart and Metallica at the same time and the harmony is somehow exquisite.’’
Last time (subhead)
The last time an NAIA World Series of the diamond variety was in Sioux City was the baseball showcase at Lewis and Clark Park in 1995-97.
In those three springs the competition was plagued by rain as it was when it was held in Des Moines in 1992-94.
When the Series was played in Our Town, Bellevue, Nebraska, tripped Cumberland, Tennessee (95), Lewis-Clark State of Idaho beat Iowa entry St. Ambrose (96) and Brewton-Parker, Georgia, topped Bellevue (97) in ultimate title games.
Much like the NAIA Division II Women’s National Basketball Championship in Sioux City, the NAIA baseball showcase has become a one-city staple.
Since 2000, the baseball showcase has been hosted by Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho. Lewis-Clark has won 17 NAIA titles, the first in 1984.
Twelve cities have hosted the NAIA softball World Series and 14 in baseball.
On the track (subhead)
Vermillion High School sophomore Maddie Lavin, South Dakota’s Class A state champ in the 1,600 and 3,200 distance races, is a distant cousin of former University of South Dakota women’s basketball coach Chad Lavin.
Chad is now an assistant women’s basketball coach at Colorado State.
Maddie Lavin broke into the bright lights of distance running as a seventh-grader, winning a state prep title in cross country.
| Look for the three fastest qualifiers for today’s Indianapolis 500 to run later this summer in the Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton on Sunday, July 10.
In the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing’’ James Hinchcliffe, the 2013 winner at Iowa Speedway, is on the pole and Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay are also on the front row, as baseball announcer Bob Uecker likes to croon.
Hunter-Reay has won the last two Iowa Corn 300s at Newton and also took the checkers in 2012. Newgarden’s best finish at Iowa is eighth.