It was the type of situation hitters dream about, coming to bat with the bases loaded in the last inning of a tie game with a championship on the line.
Stetson University junior Amanda Grimaldo faced just that scenario last Saturday in the Atlantic Sun Conference title game. With her teammates cheering her on from the dugout, Grimaldo lined a 1-2 pitch into rightcenter field to score the winning run and send the Hatters into a celebration frenzy.
"I thought, do you want to be up or not?" Grimaldo said about her opportunity after the game. "I was blessed to be in that position and come out with a hit."
It took a long journey and a lot of hard work for Grimaldo to be in that momentus position. After a standout prep career at Sebring High School that included conference Player of the Year honors, Grimaldo learned that she did not quite meet Stetson's academic requirements for admission.
"I knew the first time I visited Stetson I wanted to come here, no matter what," Grimaldo said. "I knew I had to fight through and succeed at a two-year program and then pick up my dreams here at Stetson."
Stetson's coaches suggested Grimaldo take a look at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla., where former Hatter Blythe Golden was on the coaching staff. Grimaldo was familiar with the name, having watched Stetson play in the 2007 Gainesville Regional when Golden was the Hatters' catcher.
"When we met, I told (Blythe) I remembered watching her play," Grimaldo said. "It was such a coincidence."
For the next two years, Grimaldo focused on academics as well as softball, helping lead Gulf Coast to a conference championship and a No. 2 national ranking last year. She also succeeded in the classroom, and during her sophomore year learned that her hard work had paid off; she had been accepted to Stetson. However, she was apprehensive about whether she would receive the same acceptance from her new teammates.
"When I first came here, I was nervous because I didn't really know anybody, but everyone just accepted me for who I am and what I brought to the team," Grimaldo said. "I am very thankful for that. All the coaches and staff were super supportive. My teammates never once pretended that I wasn't part of the team already."
A native of Sebring, Fla., Grimaldo has started all 50 games for the Hatters at shortstop. She is batting .281 on the season, with 10 doubles and 25 RBI. She went 4-for-10 in the Atlantic Sun Championship and was selected to the all-tournament team.
"It was quite a road for her to get here," head coach Frank Griffin said. "She really stayed focused. She does a great job for us at shortstop and probably could play anywhere on the infield. She has a terrific attitude and is a good team leader."
Grimaldo will return to Gainesville this weekend, but instead of watching from the stands, she will be front and center helping lead the Hatters in their first NCAA postseason appearance since 2007. Stetson (38-12) will face UCF (41-16) in the first game of the Gainesville Regional at 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.
The Hatter shortstop likes her team's chances.
"I think we have a great shot," Grimaldo said. "If we stay together, there is no one that can't be beat. I think it is an advantage going in as an underdog. I think people might not take us seriously, which gives us an upper-hand because we are a great team."