Editor’s Note: This article was provided by SAE World Series Co-chairman Geary Mason (Louisiana State ’84).
On Friday the 13th of November 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, the 35th Annual SAE World Series softball was successfully held in New Orleans. This event is usually held annually in early summer, but the COVID restrictions forced a postponement until August, then September, then October. Finally, a window of opportunity opened in mid-November.
The New Orleans SAE Alumni Association host committee decided that based on strong demand from participating SAE teams, the show must go on! It was decided months before to dedicate this year’s softball tournament to the memory of former Eminent Supreme Archon J.L. “Jim” Pope. Jim Pope was a faithful player, coach, cheerleader, and all-around supporter of the SAE World Series for many years. Jim’s enthusiastic participation over the years endeared him to hundreds of SAE softball players over more than thirty years.
To pay a proper tribute to Jim, his three daughters and their kids were the honored guests at the tournament’s opening ceremony. Jim’s daughters Stacy Pope Burgess, Mary Pope Murphy, and Phoenix Pope all attended, and Jim’s granddaughter Haleigh Murphy had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. SAE World Series Chaplain Jamie Devall followed with a short prayer and moment of silence for Jim, and then Geary Mason mentioned Jim’s legacy to the fraternity and the event. All tournament participants joined in singing the national anthem while maintaining proper social distancing and wearing protective masks.
After the opening ceremony, softball play began at 6 pm, and each team would get to play at least twice because of the tournament’s double-elimination format. Just as 2020 would be a screwy year, the host committee screwed up in the seeding of teams, and the 2019 champs from LSU were paired against last year’s runner ups from Southern Mississippi. These two teams last met in the 2019 finals, with LSU prevailing. LSU’s same squad had now graduated and renamed their team the LSU Alums but picked up right where they left off by defeating Southern Miss 19-9 in the opening game.
Across the softball quadruplex, the LSU active team defeated the home town Rejects team 10-5. In other opening game action, the University of Louisiana Lafayette Alums (ULL Alums) survived 17-13 over the Tulane 1 team. Another Louisiana squad, the Nicholls State team, cruised to a 23-0 demolition of the Tulane 2 team. In the second-round games of winners, the LSU active chapter outscored the ULL Alums 19-13, and the LSU Alums defeated Nicholls State 28-13.
In the loser’s bracket, the Rejects were eliminated by the Tulane 1 team’s last inning rally to lose 9-7. The Tulane 2 team didn’t fare as well, getting destroyed 26-1 by Southern Miss. The Tulane 2 team only managed to score one run but gave up 49 runs in their games. This large margin of loss would earn the Tulane 2 team the event’s “Last Place Award,” a toilet bowl trophy that would soon be proudly displayed in the chapter house. The enthusiastic Tulane teams also earned the SAE Spirit award for their incredible fun-loving attitude throughout the event. The next round of elimination games had the Nicholls State team defeat the Tulane 1 team, 20-9, and the Southern Miss team eliminate the ULL Alums 22-13.
In the winner’s bracket, the LSU actives would take on the LSU Alums who had won the tournament in 2019. The defending champs held a commanding 9-0 lead after three innings until LSU came to life and closed the gap to only trail 13-8 after the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom of the fifth and final inning, the LSU Alums pulled away with a nine-run rally to win 22-8 and advance to the finals.
In the consolation bracket, the Nicholls State and Southern Miss actives played an exciting elimination game that was tied 6-6 after four innings. Southern Miss pulled ahead 10-6 in the fifth, but Nicholls State answered with eight runs to lead 14-10. In the sixth and final inning, Southern Miss tied the game at 14-14 with a solo and three-run homer. But, in the bottom of the last inning, Nicholls State added the one run needed to secure a 15-14 victory and eliminate the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Southern Miss would take home the Farthest Distance Traveled award and fourth place. With both Nicholls State and the LSU actives having one loss each, they would now play for the honor of advancing to the finals against the now well rested LSU Alums. Nicholls State led 6-4 after the first inning, but LSU team captain Price Petagna led them to an 11-6 lead in the top of the second. Nicholls State then answered with five runs to tie the game 11-11 after only two innings. LSU regained the lead, 13 -11 in the top of the third, and then ran out of gas as Nicholls State added seven runs to lead 18-13 after three innings. The Colonels from Nicholls State added one more run in the fourth inning to win 19-13 and advance to the finals. With the loss, LSU would at least take home the Third Place trophy.
In the championship game, LSU Alums team captain Chandler Wynne led by example with an early home run, which set the pace for the LSU Alums to jump ahead 3-0 after the first inning. Nicholls State would score six runs in the top of the second inning, but the LSU Alums answered with three runs to tie the score 6-6 after two innings. The LSU Alums then went on a home run spree and held a commanding 19-7 lead after the fourth inning. But in the top of the fifth, Nicholls State scored ten runs to close the score to 19-17 and make it a close game. LSU’s alums immediately answered with five home runs, which added eight runs to lead 27-17 after the fifth inning. Nicholls State could only muster one run in each of the sixth and seventh innings, while the LSU Alums added three insurance runs to win 30-19. The LSU Alums would hit 37 home runs in their four tournament games and repeat as SAE World Series champions.
LSU Alum Connor Maginnis, who went four for four with four home runs in the championship game, greatly contributed to the championship victory. Connor’s heroics earned him the coveted SAE World Series MVP award. In addition to being the runner ups, the Nicholls State team took home the Most Improved Team award and the Best Dressed award for their colorful uniforms.
The 35th annual SAE World Series was a great success in adapting and overcoming COVID-19 related challenges. It was great to see SAE brothers come together and cooperate with restrictions and compete in friendly sportsmanship without any issues. Like everyone, the SAE World Series looks forward to a better 2021 and our 36th annual softball tournament. Please see www.saeworldseries.net and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for information on the event.
Due to many preventative measures implemented by the host committee and all involved in the tournament, no one has reported virus contraction.