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Alabama Turned To Joy, Mudita Achieved

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(Photo by Linda Donnelly)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Buddha teaches a practice of unselfish joy or finding joy in other people’s success. When one finds that joy, it’s called Mudita.

In a scoreless game between Alabama and Oklahoma on Sunday at the Women's College World Series, Crimson Tide head coach Patrick Murphy called upon senior Caroline Hardy with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and a runner on second.

With a full count, the senior delivered a single up the middle and gave Alabama a 1–0 win.

“She watches more film than anybody on the team probably,” Murphy said about why he went to Hardy. “She was like an assistant coach in the dugout…Her intangibles this year, we asked the entire team, I give them a week to think about it, then I said, 'Okay, we're going to talk about it on Tuesday of the next week.' Everybody has to stand up and give their intangible that they're going to bring to the team that year. We put it on a big bulletin board. Caroline was going to bring this aggressive, smart mentality to all the hitters. She did that perfectly. I think if you asked everybody, her intangible was spot on all year long.”

In that moment, not one player on the Alabama roster cared who was going to come up with the game-winning hit.

“When she hit that, everyone on our team went crazy,” said winning pitcher Montana Fouts. “What we always talk about is Mudita. No one cared who hit it. No one cared who was on second. It just happened and that’s what we’re proud about on this team. The seniors have taught us everything about mudita.”

Born Joy Caroline Hardy, it seems only fitting that she is the one who achieved mudita for a team with its back against the wall, fighting to live another game.

Throughout her career in Crimson, Hardy appeared in 147 games and started 60. She’d primarily been used as a pinch-hitter, and her final career hit was definitely one she will never forget.

“[This ranks at] the top for sure. I think I hit a home run against Auburn, that's probably up there, too,” Hardy said with a smile. “That's what you dream about doing. You dream about it as a little kid getting a walk-off hit, your team coming and doing a hug in the middle of the field. Yeah, that was fun. I love this team.”

Game 2 between OU and Bama didn’t go as planned for the Tide, as the Sooners came away with a 7–3 win. But, it’s an encouraging sign for the future.

After finishing the season ranked No. 4 in the Softball America Top 25, the Crimson Tide achieved a Final Four finish at the WCWS after the SEC coaches predicted them to finish eighth. It’s all because the players tuned out the outside noise, dug deep and played for each other. They achieved pure joy in the success of their team and its members this season.

“When a team actually gets Mudita and understands what it's all about, this is what happens,” said Murphy about the season. “Sixty wins, predicted eighth in the SEC, we're going to get a ring at a football game this fall. Everybody's ring is the same size because all 19 bought in...It was a lot of fun. One of the most fun teams, most enjoyable years I've ever had.”

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