Seems weird to write that a team had a disappointing finish when they both DID make it to an NCAA Regional … but I think, in this case, it fits.
As far as the baseball team goes, the amount of success Emporia State has had under Bob Fornelli is really incredible — he’s single-handedly turned the Hornets into one of the elite teams in NCAA Division II. But I think even he would admit (I hope he would admit, anyways) that one year after finishing as the national runner-up, the preseason No. 1 team in America, with a handful of preseason All-Americans … that this team came up short. No MIAA regular-season title, no MIAA Tournament title, and then this. Was it the weight of expectations? Only the people in the locker room know for sure. But I can’t help but think this wasn’t in line with what they had planned for the season.
The ESU softball team is more of a hard-luck tale. Their greatest disappointment has got to come from losing in an NCAA Regional that they’re hosting — compounded by the fact that both losses came to the same team, Angelo State, and both came after blowing leads. In this case, the expecations didn’t come so much before the season as during it, when the Hornets blistered the rest of the MIAA, winning both regular season and league tourney titles. Here’s the thing about ESU, though … they bring almost everybody back, including both ace freshman pitchers in Paige Ladenburger and Jennifer Heerey. If I were a betting man (which I’m not) I’d say they’d be a no-brainer top 5 pick next year and one of the prohibitive favorites to win the 2011 national title. That’s just too much firepower coming back.