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What Game Week Looks Like During Division I Fall Ball

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(Photo by Duke Athletics)

The anticipation leading up to game day is one of the best feelings one can feel as a college softball player. You get to go all out and play with your heart on your sleeve in an exhibition format, and sometimes do it under the lights. But preparation is key. Long practices ensure that you are free to play loose and without any doubt that you are ready to go to battle.

Below, Duke pitcher and Softball America intern Jala Wright gives the inside scoop about what it’s like for a Duke softball player during the week leading up to game day during fall ball and on game day itself.

Monday

Today started with a 7 a.m. lift. I will not lie, getting out of bed at 6 a.m. this morning was tough. I had to internally scream, "Jala!" to myself a good 10 times to get up and get out of bed. Through the struggle, thank goodness I made it, or it would really be trouble. Monday’s lift is mostly leg day—squatting and RDLs with a touch of leg mobility was the focus for the day.

My teammates and I yelled and cheered for each other as we threw up weights for an hour and 15 minutes. Once the lift was completed, I grabbed a strawberry protein shake and made my way to Spanish class. After Spanish, I took a much-needed nap to get re-energized for practice. Practice starts at 3:30 p.m., so I made sure to get there around 2:25 p.m. to do all my movement work, extra tee work and grab a snack. The focus for today’s practice was defense, defense and more defense. We took time to go through situations, slapper/bunt defense and outfield throws to bases.

Tuesday

My day started off with an 8:30 a.m. Spanish 101 class, followed by a 12 p.m. Juvenile Delinquency class. At 3:30 p.m., it was go-time for the start of practice. Today was all about offense and getting live reps in. We started with a 20-minute review session on Tennessee's pitchers since they are our next opponent. That included identifying the speeds they throw, what specific pitches they have and if we can pick up on any patterns.

Afterward, we did an offensive drill called "Two-Lane." For the drill, there are two lanes set up on the field focusing on two specific aspects of hitting. The focus of today's "Two-Lane" was going with the outside pitch and seeing the ball. Lastly, we finished up practice with a mini-scrimmage. Another pitcher and I threw live to our hitters, mimicking the pitches they could possibly see this weekend, while also tightening up on our own pitches. On Tuesdays, lift is after practice, so the team and I all hurried over to our 6 p.m. lift. Hip bridges and sprints were the focus for today. Not to brag, but I did hit a PR of hip bridging at 365 pounds!

Wednesday

Today was the longest day ever, to say the least. I had three classes from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. My last class should've ended at 6 p.m., but my professor was nice enough to end class early. Normally, on Wednesdays, we have an off day, but given that we had an off day on Sunday and big competition this week, practice was from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. today. For the full practice, we did an intersquad scrimmage. We even had an official umpire come to call balls and strikes. Overall, it went well! We were able to get a real feel for what competition on Saturday is going to feel like.

Thursday

My day started at 10 a.m. for the first time in a long time, and I couldn't have been happier about it! I got ready and headed to treatment. Sadly, a grueling ice bath awaited me. The 10 minutes I sat in there felt like 10 years. After the ice bath, I made sure to get stem treatment on my arm. I found out I am getting the start for the Tennessee game, so I wanted to make sure I'm doing everything I can to have my body at 100%.

Once I finished treatment, I headed to my 12 p.m. Juvenile Delinquency class. I was so happy because the class went by quickly. The team and I had some “hitting homework” to do; get 30 bunts down off the machine before we head to Knoxville. A few teammates and I planned to get to practice early to complete our homework.

Today's focus at practice was on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive. We got defensive reps in, situational hitting and plays and did a mini-scrimmage at the end. To wrap up the day, we had an hour-long lift. Only 24 more hours until we hit the road! 

Friday

Travel day is here! I had two classes today, but they were the least of my worries. I got in an extra lift this morning. It was what I call my feel-good work. It is that extra stuff that I do to make me feel good and prepared for whatever may come my way. My feel-good lift consisted of back squats, lots of mobility work and foam rolling. My feel-good lift included hitting a PR of 290! My PR was a great send-off into the weekend.

I got to the stadium around 1:15 p.m. to attend an extra hitting session at 2 p.m. Another feel-good session consisted of getting front toss in. After wrapping up, I made sure to check my bat bag, travel suitcase and pack any snacks I would want for the bus ride to Tennessee. We had 6 hours and 30 minutes on the bus, so I intended to be relaxed and have my belly full. As 4 p.m. arrived, the team and I packed up the bus and hit the road.

Saturday

The day is finally here! It’s game day! To start the day, the team had breakfast together and did a few team activities. My favorite was writing a letter to softball. We poured out our hearts, truly stating how we feel about the game. Good or bad, we were going to rewrite and grow our bond with softball come game time. We made our way to the field and began warmups. You could feel the anticipation grow as each minute passed by. As 3:30 p.m. arrived, we were ready to show the SEC how the ACC goes to battle.

It was certainly a battle back and forth for a long 10-inning game. Strikeouts, home runs and diving plays all presented themselves when we took the field against the Vols. The ending score resulted in a 14-14 tie. What a week it was!

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