The remainder of time that she’ll play the sport can be measured in days — a non-guaranteed number from one to eight.
For the sport that has so consumed her life — and the lives of four other Oxford seniors — even a state title will only take them to a week from today, then for the crew, it’s off into a brave new world.
It’s something Goodwin doesn’t like to think about.
“Some of us will never play again,” said second baseman Goodwin, wsho picked a full academic scholarship to Jacksonville State over continuing her softball career. “I’m not going to know what to do at all, I’m going to have so much free time, with no softball and nothing to replace it. Just the memories of high school ball.”
Oxford embarks today on its quest to make those final memories good ones in the North Regional at Huntsville’s Sportsplex. The Yellow Jackets take on Austin at 5 p.m. Eight schools qualify in each classification with only the top two qualifying to move on to the state tournament in Montgomery beginning next week.
When they step on the field they’ll be walking a tight line — two losses and the Lady Jackets’ season ends. Four wins, though, and they stay alive for something they’ve lived for their entire varsity lives.
Alongside Goodwin, Jenna Nolan, Logan McCall, Casey Williams and Whitney Roper have all picked to leave softball behind, ending the careers many began as starters on the varsity as eighth graders and freshmen.
“We’ve never made it to state,” Goodwin said. “So, we decided to get dedicated, and we want nothing more than to go out and go to state.”
While the potential for futures were there, for different reasons, they chose not to go. Longtime Oxford coach Wendy McKibbin, a former standout at Jacksonville State, said she understood.
“When they start 8- and 9-years-old and they play summer ball and travel ball,” she said. “They’re playing softball 10-11 months out of the year when they specialize in one sport.
“There’s a burnout factor.”
But what is still burning strong is the Lady Yellow Jackets’ desire to make amends for part of their past and go even further.
After a six-year postseason run was snapped last season, Oxford sat at home instead of going to regionals.
“I feel like we had the players and the talent last year to go further than any other year,” Goodwin said. “It was just devastating that we didn’t make it.
“Now, there’s five seniors and it’s do or die.”
McKibbin said while it’s do or die now, her team didn’t wait around to start the journey. While the start to the season was slow, she’s seen improvement.
And now at the end of the season, it’s been a downright tear. Oxford has won 11 of its past 13 games, including the regular season and area tournament championships.
“We’ve got a lot better since the beginning of the year, for sure,” McKibbin said. “ … we have as good a chance as we’ve had in the past four years.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.