No. 1 and done: Southern Arkansas’ softball season canceled after earning top ranking in the NCAA

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Many will start fast, few will finish strong. That’s the case for Southern Arkansas’ softball team. They just didn’t expect to finish when they did.

“Had a meeting with the team pre-practice, ” says Southern Arkansas’ head coach Jason Anderson. “Let them know at the time, the weekend was still on. It was probably going to be announced by the [Great American Conference]. I said, ‘Let’s practice, like we’re still playing.’ About 30 minutes after that meeting, I saw where the NCAA canceled all Spring national championships.”

On March 12, many leagues across the country closed up shop, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Great American Conference wasn’t spared. That effectively ended the Lady Muleriders’ 22-2 season.

“We’ve never been through anything like this before, ” Anderson continues. “Your season was stopped other than, ‘Hey, I got beat.’ Or, ‘We got beat out.’ It was like there’s this pandemic going on throughout the country and, ‘we feel it’s in the best interest of the country to shut down everything that’s going on.'”

At the time, Jason Anderson’s team won 16 straight games, thanks to help from a few locals. Bastrop alum Chelsea Fagan was second in the GAC in runs batted in, and third in home runs. ULM transfer Sydney Wader pitched a 13-0 record.

“We don’t do anything magical, ” says Anderson. “We don’t have cookie cutter hitters. We don’t do anything special. We just set the expectation. Just put them through the drills. Do what we can to develop them, and try to do the best we can for them.”

This team was on pace to match the 2018 squad, that was one win away from advancing to the Division II College World Series Final.

“We have the pitching, ” continues Anderson. “We have the defense. We have the hitting. Everything I’ve seen, I felt like we were poised to make a strong run to the World Series this year.”

Despite the disappointment, Coach Anderson hopes a valuable lesson will come from the season’s cancellation.

“As a coach I need to coach as if it’s my last game, ” says Anderson. “Never sell anything short. As a player, especially those coming back, they’re going to be driven. They’re going to be focused.”

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