The similarities are scary. Scary good, that is.
Fifteen years ago, Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace crafted a signature moment in sportsmanship. Teammates on Central Washington University’s softball team, the duo came to the aid of their opponent, Sara Tucholsky Bradley of Western Oregon. Sara hit a homerun, the first of her college career, but collapsed rounding first with a knee injury. Realizing that none of Sara’s teammates could help, Mallory and Liz carried Sara around the bases.
The video has become a foundational Musial moment of which Southeastern University teammates Chapel Cunningham and Leah Gonzalez were blissfully unaware this spring. “It’s so awesome,” Chapel says. “But at the time, I didn’t know about them.”
“The time” was the fifth inning of a game in Lakeland, Florida, between Southeastern and Grand View University of Des Moines, Iowa. Trailing 4-1, Grand View loaded the bases, when catcher Kaitlyn Moses hit the go-ahead grand slam.
“As soon as she hit it, we knew it, and she knew it,” says Chapel, now a junior, who played shortstop. “She hit it so hard, I had to turn and watch the ball.” When Chapel finally turned to face the infield, she saw Kaitlyn on the ground between first and second base.
Leah, now a junior who was playing first base, says, “We ran to her, saw her in pain and wanted to do something.”
Chapel was vaguely aware of the rule, which states that neither teammates, coaches, trainers nor the umpires could help Kaitlyn, who was unable to crawl back to first. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure if we could help, so I asked the umpire. He said yes. Leah and I didn’t say anything but knew what we wanted to do. We just nodded to each other, then asked Kaitlyn if that was OK with her.”
Leah recalls that Kaitlyn was surprised and apologetic when the two lifted her and headed towards second base. “We said, ‘Girl, do not apologize. You hit that ball, so you deserve this.’ In the moment, there’s so much adrenaline and we were so focused on not touching her injured ankle. But BANG! When she got emotional, we got emotional, too.”
As the trio rounded third, Kaitlyn’s teammates gathered at home, and Chapel noticed people in the stands taking video with their phones. “To that point, we thought we were just doing the right thing. Then, we realized we were doing something to make a difference.”
A day or so later, Leah and Chapel started hearing from friends that ESPN had shared one of those videos on its Instagram account. Soon, the requests flooded in: a Tampa TV station, CBS Nightly News, Inside Edition. News even spread to Australia, home of second baseman Karah Schultz, who said her parents had seen the story.
The global response stems from “a glimpse of hope and humanity,” Leah says. “People have this idea about sports and competition as bad guy-good guy. This gives everyone a moment to reflect that not everything has to be win or lose.”
Only weeks later did Leah and Chapel learn about Mallory and Liz. “After everything happened, they started comparing what we did to what they did,” Leah says. “I saw it and was kind of shocked at how similar they were. It was funny and surreal.”
Chapel adds: “I think Leah and I are huge competitors. We hate losing, but the moment was so much bigger. I think we set a precedent for what healthy competition in sports could be like.”
They may not have established the precedent, but they surely solidified it, and carved out their own legacy.
“Now Southeastern is known for good sportsmanship. It’s not just me and Leah,” Chapel says. “We also came to an agreement that as a team, we want to be known as disciples of good sportsmanship.”