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Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, GoHatters.com is counting down the Top 10 Games in Patricia Wilson Field history...

Countdown #10
February 15, 2003, Home game #1
Stetson 8, Webber 0

Sometimes a particular game takes a back seat to the overall significance of the event, and that is definitely the case with the #10 game in our countdown.

Beginning in 1988, the the Stetson softball team played its home games at the Sperling Sports Complex, a municipal softball complex shared by high school and recreational leagues.  Sperling was also where the Hatters practiced, making it a challenge for student-athletes to commute the 10-mile round trip on a near-daily basis throughout the fall and spring seasons.

So the university and the athletic department got to work on planning an on-campus facility for the burgeoning softball program.  Various sites were analyzed, construction costs were determined, and architectural renderings were developed.  But when the economy took a turn for the worse late in 2001, the project was put on hold.

Head Coach Frank Griffin kept pushing forward, however, and with the tremendous support of university President Dr. H. Douglas Lee and athletic director Jeff Altier, Stetson broke ground in April of 2002 on the site that is now Patricia Wilson Field.

Breaking ground was a huge step forward, but the clock was ticking and the race was on to have the field ready for games in 2003.

First, the ground was cleared and leveled, sod was laid and clay for the infield and warning track was brought in and dispersed.  Contractors poured concrete for the dugouts and installed poles for the backstop netting.  Meanwhile, Griffin and his assistant coaches Vanessa Glasscock and Tracy Riepenhoff spent virtually every day of the off season constructing the backstop and two dugouts.

In the fall the players themselves also got to work, often sacrificing practice time in order to further prepare the field for the spring.

This excerpt is from a Feb., 2003 press release:

For Head Softball Coach Frank Griffin and the 18-member team, getting the field ready for play this season has been a labor of love that’s taken them from hitting in the batting cages to getting on their hands and knees to pull weeds.  Griffin played an integral role in the planning and construction of the field, working side-by-side with contractors and Stetson Facilities Management staff.  In addition to the tremendous teamwork this project has created, Griffin is especially grateful for the more than 450 donors who have contributed to this campaign.

“There’s something about being able to call your place your home,” Griffin said.  “It puts us on a level playing field with a lot of our competition.  It is a very important ingredient to recruitment.”

“We have been waiting for so long to get this field,” said team co-captain Melanie McElhaney, a senior integrative health major from Cantonment, Fla. “To actually have it now, it’s a big accomplishment.”

***

So after years of planning, preparing, and constructing, the Hatters opened the “Stetson Softball Field” on Feb. 15, 2003 in a doubleheader against Webber International University.  (The Stetson University Board of Trustees later named the facility "Patricia Wilson Field" to honor the alumna's long-standing support of the Stetson Athletic Department.)

The Hatters played as if Patricia Wilson Field had been their home for years, defeating the Warriors 8-0 and 9-0.  Melissa Wiggins hit a walk-off home run in game two as Holly Burris and Jennifer Buckley combined on a no-hitter.  Stetson would go on to win 18 consecutive games at their new field before ever losing their first.

However, the importance of the day overshadowed the games themselves, as Stetson finally had an on-campus facility to call home.  Therefore, opening day, 2003 ranks #10 on our list of Top 10 Games at Patricia Wilson Field.


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