OKLAHOMA CITY -- Texas A&M is at the Women's College World Series for the obvious reasons. The Aggies have talent, chemistry and resilience. They also took advantage of a strong start, beating four ranked teams at the Mary Nutter Classic, then benefited from a favorable Southeastern Conference schedule.
But what put A&M over the top was a little bit of divine intervention.
A&M is in Oklahoma City because Trinity Harrington either had an angel on our shoulder or an inner voice guiding her as she pitched the Aggies to a 5-3 victory over Tennessee for the super regional title.
Harrington's story has been well documented and it will be repeated again Thursday when A&M takes on Florida. And it will be rehashed again and again each of these last few times this year's A&M team is fortunate enough to play, however long their stay lasts at the WCWS. And that's OK, because it's a story that will never get boring because it's not just about sports -- it's about life.
Harrington missed the College Station Regional because her father, Eric, lost his battle with cancer. Many outside the program didn't even know Harrington wasn't with the team until after the regional. Harrington not pitching didn't raise red flags since A&M uses three starting pitchers based on hot hand or matchup. Harrington also has a history of back problems, so with Samantha Show and Lexi Smith combining for a trio of complete games to sweep the regional, Harrington's absence arguably could've made sense.
But if she wasn't missed in the box score, she was weighing heavy on the hearts of her teammates, who did their best to lift Harrington's spirits by outscoring the opposition 20-2.
Harrington lifted her own spirits and her teammates' by returning to the team.
"She told me that softball is her therapy and when she comes out here she's focused 100 percent on the game," A&M sophomore third baseman Riley Sartain said. "So I think that's really what's made her successful. We always try to keep her laughing and keep everything pretty light-hearted, so I think that's been working pretty well for her."
Harrington was good enough to start with the season on the line not once but twice. She smiled her way through 12 1/3 tense innings at the Knoxville Super Regional, shaking off errors, missed calls and even a mammoth home run by Tennessee's Megan Gregg in Harrington's first inning back in the circle since her father's death.
"I'm glad she was on the mound for that game," Sartain said. "You know she always pitches really well. I was really proud of her to continuing to pitch really well in those games."
A year ago, Harrington was the losing pitcher in the first game of the Lafayette (La.) Regional, then watched in the dugout as A&M ran out of pitching in a 9-8 season-ending loss to Lafayette.
Last week, Harrington started back-to-back games for the first time in a weekend series, finding a way to get an A&M program without a senior starter to the WCWS for the first time since 2008.
"We fought hard all year, and we fought hard through the postseason for each other, for our program and also for Trin and her family," A&M coach Jo Evans said. "It's been a real growing experience, a time of growth for us and the silver lining of learning empathy and how to be resilient, and Trin has been a great example of that."
Harrington's story is heartwarming because so many can relate, taking comfort in her success. You'll get goosebumps every time the story is told, because even if you don't know Harrington, you know someone who is or has been dealing with a tragedy. You can bet there's other softball players with similar stories who didn't make it to Oklahoma City, seeing their dream end along the way. Hopefully, they'll feel some satisfaction in what Harrington and the Aggies have accomplished.
"You know it was quite emotional after [Sunday's victory]," Sartain said. "We didn't try to think about it too much during the game because we didn't want those emotions to override our instincts for the game. But after it got pretty emotional. We were all just pretty proud of her and really happy for her."