Days after her dad's death, Trinity Harrington pitches complete game to send Texas A&M to WCWS

Trinity Harrington put her trust in those around her, the teammates and coaches she had spent more time with the past two seasons than anyone else. Days after cancer took her father, Eric, she returned from her home in Colorado to rejoin the softball team at Texas A&M.

She returned to be with them and to do the one thing she has probably done more than any other in her life. She returned to be a pitcher.

So were they not going to put their trust in her?

Courtesy Texas A&M

After giving up three runs in the first two innings, Trinity Harrington shut down Tennessee the rest of the way to send Texas A&M to the Women's College World Series.

With the season on the line Saturday after a loss a day earlier in the opening game of a super regional at Tennessee, were the Aggies not going to give her the ball for her first appearance in more than two weeks? And when she won that game, were they not going to give her the ball again the next day?

Down three runs before Sunday's finale was three innings old, were they not going to stick with her?

That isn't how this works.

There were few stars this weekend more unlikely than Harrington, who started in back-to-back wins as No. 9 Texas A&M escaped a best-of-three series against No. 8 Tennessee and advanced to the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2008. Nor a story more bittersweet.

The junior's most recent appearance before this weekend was a start against Alabama on May 11. She didn't pitch during Texas A&M's brief stay in the SEC tournament, and she missed regional wins at home a week ago. Two days before those games, she returned to Colorado when her father was admitted to the hospital. A day later, he died.

Harrington remained with her family over the weekend, as Texas A&M beat Texas Southern, Texas State and Texas to advance to the super regional. She returned Monday and traveled with the team to Knoxville. She watched as the Vols routed the Aggies 8-1 in the opening game, the most lopsided margin in any of the games played in eight super regionals.

She got the ball the next day in an elimination game. She wasn't perfect, giving up a home run in the first inning and two more runs in the second. The score was 5-5 when she left in the top of the sixth inning. A Texas A&M run in the bottom of the inning secured the 6-5 win.

"It's so exciting to see our kids get excited," Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said after her team evened the series. "They were able to relax today, they were able to have fun playing the game, and letting the game come to them. And we weren't perfect, we made some mistakes. But we were so resilient today. We were aggressive, we were attacking the ball. We were, as a pitching staff, attacking the strike zone."

In her own postgame interview, Harrington, a smile on her face, agreed with a question that characterized the proceedings as exciting and added her own description: "heart-wrenching."

She paused and searched for words long enough that a listener could have thought that phrase would lead her in a different direction. Instead, she eventually added, "Maybe tomorrow, we get more runs earlier in the game."

And she laughed.

Harrington hadn't pitched on back-to-back days all season, but there she was in the circle with the season on the line yet one more time Sunday. Again the performance wasn't flawless. Again Tennessee scored once in the first and added two more runs in the second for a 3-0 lead.

The Aggies answered with four runs in the top of the third inning, Riley Sartain's three-run home run the biggest blow of all. Harrington took it from there, a single in the bottom of the third the last hit Tennessee managed in the game.

When Texas A&M shortstop Kristen Cuyos fielded a ground ball and threw to first for the final out, Harrington briefly dropped to one knee. Then her catcher, Ashley Walters, reached her and lifted her up in a bear hug. Both were quickly enveloped in a jumbled mass of joyous Aggies.

"That kid's been through so much and for her to get out there and take care of business, I'm just so proud of the kid," Evans said. "I was really proud of Trin for just understanding, we're home to you now and come back and be with us and we'll take good care of you and this is your family here. And she's responded really well and we're all just over the moon for that kid."

During what turned out to be the final game of his team's season over the weekend, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy spoke during an in-game interview about one of his players who had come up big during a rare start. He talked about her flawless GPA in the kind of major, chemical engineering, that makes that difficult. Whether Alabama won or lost on the day, and it was still up in the air at that moment, he said that she was what college athletics should be about.

A similar thought comes to mind thinking about what Harrington went through last week, what she returned to do this weekend and who she returned to do it with. Every college team talks about being a family, to the point that the words become hollow, meaningless. Not every squeeze play or pick-and-roll requires those involved to share a familial bond. Nor is every family perfect. But what a team should be, win or lose, is a collection of people who are a part of your life. They should be your people. That is what a college family should be about.

Having lost her father, Harrington returned to her people.

So of course they were going to trust her.

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