Collins’ round-tripper sealed ’01 NCAA title for UA
By: Maria Adams/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
“There is only one hit you’ll remember in your career.”
Those were the words that University of Arizona Softball Coach Mike Candrea uttered to Wildcats’ senior Lindsey Collins after she hit the home run in the 2001 NCAA Division I Softball National Championship that sealed a 1-0 victory over UCLA on that late May day in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Now, exactly 20 years to the day, Collins, the current Grand Canyon University Club Softball Head Coach, still remembers that hit like it was yesterday.
“I can still hear the crowd, remember the smell of the ballpark, and picture myself smiling as I rounded the bases,” said Collins. “It feels like I just graduated college, but it has been longer than I realize.”
It was a remarkable hit, but Collins recalled that neither her nor her teammates were quick to celebrate.
“Yes, games are won on single hits, but mine happened in the fourth inning,” said Collins. “There was still so much time for UCLA to make a big play. Everyone was trying to keep their composure.”
The Wildcats’ diligence paid off, and they managed to hold off the Bruins for those final three innings. Collins’ role as the catcher permitted her the honor of catching the last strike of the game.
As Collins sat in a small, Phoenix-area restaurant and reminisced on that final play of her college career, she suddenly stopped in her tracks and pointed to the TV monitor across the room. She chuckled in disbelief as a commercial aired that included a clip of that exact moment. The footage showed Collins catch the third strike, throw the ball to the ground and erupt into cheers and hugs with her teammates.
“When I watch that video, I realize how young I really was when I did that,” said Collins. “I wish I could explain to my 21-year-old self that I still had so much yet to accomplish. I had no idea how much I could give back to the world and be a role model to young female athletes.”
While ‘national champion’ has a nice ring to it – both figuratively and literally as she still has her NCAA-issued champion ring – Collins’ days as a player were numbered, so she shifted her focus to the coaching side of the game. Now in her fifth year as head coach for the Lopes, Collins’ passion for the sport continues to motivate her.
“That experience taught me how to give even more than 100%,” said Collins. “You have to put your heart and soul into it. Being at that elite level and having that love for the game, that’s something you don’t ever want to lose, so it was easy to transition into coaching.”
Collins’ past gifted her with the unique opportunity to relate to her players on a deeper level when in her first season at GCU, she led the Lopes to a 3rd-place finish at the 2017 National Club Softball Association World Series.
“I know what my players are feeling before big games, because I have been there,” said Collins. “That role reversal was crazy, and it has been amazing to watch these girls turn into strong females.”
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