NORFOLK, Va. - Starting Thursday, the Norfolk State University softball team will play host to this year's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship. The winner of the four-team, double-elimination event advances to the NCAA Division I softball tournament - a place NSU has never been.
If the Spartans are going to make history, this would be an appropriate year to do it - as 2021 has already been unforgettable for a key part of their program.
Monday's wet weather forces the Norfolk State softball team to alter its practice plan an move the workout indoors, off campus.
A disruption like this, just three days before the conference tournament, could be bothersome to many. It's not to NSU head softball coach James Inzana.
"I try to make every day count as best as I can," Inzana explained Monday. "I don't get stressed as much as I used to."
The fourth-year head coach does not wear his emotions as much anymore. That's because he wears an oxygen generator.
A little more than two months ago, Inzana was not at practice. The 56 year-old was in the ICU battling COVID-19.
"For those people who don't believe COVID is real: it's 110 percent real," Inzana told News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler. "I thought I was in really good shape. I worked out every day, and pitched every day to the team - ran with them."
Inzana was gone for 43 days of practice and several games. However, he really didn't miss any games - just ask his nurses. They were the ones who witnessed (and heard) Coach watching broadcasts of his team playing.
"I did scream a couple times," Inzana admitted. "The first time they came running and asked if everything was okay. I told them it's not okay, because we're making mistakes!"
But things got better.
Upon returning, Inzana has helped guide the Spartans to a 12-and-7 record in MEAC play - the team's most wins in conference since 2015.
"It says a lot about him," senior catcher/designated player Tuli Iosefa said of her coach's battle. "He's really committed to us, and he wants to see this program get better and see us get better."
"I appreciate life more," Inzana admitted. "I appreciate everything in general. I get up every morning and take as deep a breath as I can, and pretty much say thank you for another day."
Even if that day is windy and rainy, forcing a change in practice plans.