Wednesday afternoon’s softball game between St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic has taken on more meaning.
The annual “pink” game between the District 5-4A rivals, which honors breast cancer awareness, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Teurlings. The game will have a direct impact on which team will claim the district championship and eventually seeding for the state playoffs.
But Wednesday’s game will also be filled with emotion as the Cougars mourn the loss of a family member.
Loretta Girouard lost her battle with breast cancer on Easter Sunday. Loretta was an inspiration for the team the past few years as she battled stage four breast cancer. Her daughter Janie, a member of the team who has Down syndrome, has also inspired STM.
“There is that battle between the two teams, but we will be playing for something bigger,” longtime STM coach Andria Waguespack said. “I expect a lot of inspirational play.”
The defending state champions are still trying to come together as a team.
The Cougars lost seven starters from last year’s title team but have replaced them with players with little or no playing experience. That has resulted in an up-and-down season for STM (11-9, 7-1 in District 5-4A) as the team has already lost nine games, compared to a season ago when the team lost five games.
The team looked to have possibly turned a corner recently having snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over against Westgate on Thursday and then besting Northside 10-0 Tuesday evening.
“When you are talking about the gap of experience we have a lot to make up,” Waguespack said. “But there is no excuse. When you have that gap, you have to work harder and become even more of a student of the game. You have to have patience. I have had to learn that myself. I have learned a whole level of patience this season.”
Even with the struggles, STM still is in the hunt for a share of the district title having already defeated Teurlings Catholic 4-3 on March 23. Waguespack, who said her team “is still a work in progress,” is still looking for her team to become more consistent at the plate and clean up its base running and find its identity.
“We have struggled all year about what our identity is,” Waguespack said. “When you have such an inexperienced group like the one that we are playing with, they are struggling with where the program is and who we are and who we want to be. Once we figure that out, we will be more consistent.”
When asked if the raw emotion of Girouard’s death will be a challenge for her young team to overcome, Waguespack expects her team to embrace those emotions and honor the Girouard family with a victory Wednesday.
“I think some of them will be affected and probably overwhelmed,” Waguespack said. “You have to understand that you have to have faith, and that everything happens for a reason. It would almost be a dishonor to not go out and play fearlessly. She woke up every day without fear and woke up with purpose. It would a shame to not look at that and not be inspired.”