Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Good-luck charm to accompany Chieftain softball to Salina

May 24, 2006

Abe Lincoln will be joining the Tonganoxie High softball team in Salina later this week.

Well, at least Lincoln's profile, on a weathered penny, will be in the dugout when the Chieftains take the field Friday.

Last Wednesday, before the regional championship game against Piper, THS co-coach Debbie Himpel noticed something in the dirt near the third-base coach's box.

Himpel looked closer.

There, in foul territory, was a penny.

Himpel asked her players which side was good luck -- heads or tails.

Chieftain players said "heads," was good luck. The coin, indeed, was head-side up.

Seven innings later, the Chieftains were celebrating a 1-0 championship win against Piper. And more importantly, the victory secured the program's first trip to the state tournament.

After the game, I examined the coin with Himpel a little further. I asked Himpel what year the penny was.

Himpel poured some water on the coin and scrubbed the remaining dirt off the penny.

It was a 1989.

Himpel then asked pitcher Amie Riddle, one of Tonganoxie's two juniors, what year she was born.

"1989," Riddle replied.

Superstitions have played a part in sports for years.

Whether players refuse to wash their jerseys during a winning streak or wear their ball caps inside out to form a "rally cap," sports freaks use anything they can in hopes of gaining an advantage.

Of course, for this year's Tonganoxie softball team, talent, more than luck, has guided the Chieftains to a 20-3 record.

With a young squad -- Riddle and fellow junior Sara Schlicht are the team's oldest players -- odds are good the Chieftains could make return trips to the state tournament.

But for a team that's enjoying its best season in school history, how could a lucky penny hurt anything?

In a superstitious line of thought, if Himpel would have found the coin before the May 15 game against Bishop Ward, she might have avoided some bad luck herself. A line-drive foul ball plunked Himpel in the thigh while she was standing in the coach's box -- the same area where she discovered the penny.

Although Himpel suffered a little bad luck during that game, she came back the next night to coach the semifinals and championship games, albeit with a hefty bruise.

But with the bad luck comes the good luck.

With a 1-0 lead in the top of the seventh against Piper, Tonganoxie gave up a hit deep in the outfield. The Piper runner headed to second, but the throw from center beat her to the bag.

The player argued that first baseman Jamie Hicks got in her way and should have been called for interference. The play, though, stood, and THS claimed the regional crown.

When Tonganoxie opens the state tournament Friday in Salina against Augusta, the Chieftains will take the field in hopes of winning a state title.

Himpel said Abe would making the trip as well.

"It will travel with us to Salina," Himpel said.

Riddle said she'll make sure her coach brings that lucky penny.

"She better bring it to state, that's all I can say," Riddle said.

Luckily for Himpel, she'll be bringing a young and talented squad as well.

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