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Spotlight on Former Athlete - Tiffany Whittall Harris - Softball 1992-1995

Defining moment still can't define Whittall Harris life

 

By Bruce Brown

 

Athletic Network

 

Tiffany Whittall Harris will always be remembered as the Ragin' Cajun who had a day unlike any softball player in history, a day that has yet to be surpassed nearly 25 years later.

 

On April 15, 1995, Harris pummeled Samford pitchers for two grand slam home runs, 11 runs batted in and 13 total bases IN ONE INNING as USL rolled to a 29-0 victory.

 

It was pretty unbeliaveble, actually, Harris said. It all happened to quickly. People have to remember that, for me to be able to do that, eight other people had to do their jobs, twice, getting on base, for me to have a chance.

 

The moment remains frozen in time, unlike the inning.

 

The inning went on so long, I was back in the bullpen, Harris said. The game had gone on for 45 minutes and (starter) Cheryl Longeway had not pitched yet. So I was warming her up.

 

The next thing I know, they came running and said, 'You're on deck!' I went back without even thinking about it. It was the perfect storm.

 

Harris's parents were at the game, as they were for every one in her Cajun career from 1992-95, and that provided a lighter moment.

 

My dad would always stand in the outfield, by the fence, for my games, Harris said, and he caught both of my balls. Later in the game, the ump told Yvette Girouard that we were running out of balls and asked to retrieve some of the home runs we had hit.

 

Yvette said, 'See that big guy in the outfield? That's Tiffany's dad. If you want the two she hit, you can ask him yourself.' Dad's still got both of them.

 

Harris was a vital part of the first golden era for UL softball, which Girouard started from scratch in 1981. Those 1992-95 teams went 204-33, averaging 51 wins per season, and made the school's first two trips to the Women's College World Series in 1993 and 1995.

 

I'm from Oklahoma and grew up going to the World Series, Harris said. As a little kid, as a player, you want to get there. So it was special when we went the first time.

 

Yvette had put her life into building the program, and the team was truly a sisterhood. Very much a family. Very unique.

 

In those early days, a squad might have had 13 members. Players like Vanessa Avant had to play several positions. Starting catchers caught nearly every pitch thrown, as witnessed by Harris's career fielding percentage of .994 including some 1,474 chances.

 

Harris caught two of the best in program history in Kyla Hall, who led UL to the 1993 WCWS, and Cheryl Longeway, who no-hit Michigan in the 1995 classic.

 

They were two very different pitchers, Harris said. Kyla was a fierce competitor who wanted to be great. When she got on the field, her face would change. She was all business, came to the field with one thing in mind beating you. She was zoned in, with the natural demeanor of a leader.

 

Cheryl was different. She wanted to win, too, but she was mild-mannered. She was a finesse thrower who could put the ball exactly where she wanted it. Both were very effective in their approach.

 

Back then, 90 percent of the games ended 1-0. Those two made my life super easy.

 

The 5-0 win over Michigan was a classic.

 

You don't realize it when you're playing, Harris said. You're so involved in the game you take it one batter at a time. Baseball players are also superstitious, so if you know you've got a no-hitter going, you;re not going to say anything in the world to jinx it.

 

Harris and husband Robert know about that culture as parents of former UL baseball pitcher Hogan, who played from 2015-18 and is working his way up the ladder in the minor leagues.

That pioneer spirit

 

Softball has grown its own following, thanks to pioneers like Girouard..

 

The 1990's were a turning point in softball, Harris said. Now it's recognized around the world. At one time, the SEC didn't have softball. Now there is more of what's needed for girls to play. Girouard did an amazing job of scheduling us against the top programs."

 

We used to draw 3,000, 4,000 to games, which was unheard of then. Now there is growth, passion and money in the sport. When I played, Yvette told us we were student athletes, and fund-raisers, too. She'd call us and say 'put your uniform on and come in,' and we'd have a fund raisers so we could get to our next tournament.

 

Girouard came under fire from some Cajun loyalists when she left UL for LSU, but has since been welcomed back with open arms in retirement and had the field named in her honor at Lamson Park.

 

I'm so, so happy about that, Harris said. We've always stayed super close.I understood that going to LSU was the right decision for her at the time. Absolutely. The UL program has remained at the top level, and I'm sure that Gerry Glasco is the man to take us back to the World Series.

 

The first year she was at LSU, (ex-Cajun assistant) Pat Murphy was at Alabama. Hogan was maybe 1 or 2. We went to the game, and we all wore Ragin' Cajun shirts. I told them we don't want either of you to win, but I'd like to see you both do great.

 

Now, of course, Girouard is back on the scene and reunions are more enjoyable for players of Harris's vintage.

 

What a vintage it was.

 

Hall and Lynn Britton were All-Americans on the 1993 World Series squad, while Harris, Longeway, Britton, Kathy Morton, Stephanie DeFeo and Lana Jimenez were named in 1995.

 

My senior year was my best at bat, Harris said. I had been a consistent 5-6-7 hole hitter, then I moved up to No. 4. From 1-through-9, we had power. Even our slappers. That took a lot of pressure off to get the job done."

 

That allowed you to not have to go 5-for-5 every game. In this game, if you succeed 33 percent of the time, you're a Hall of Famer.

 

Harris, a 2007 inductee in the UL Athletic Hall of Fame, figured she would get a master degree and build a career elsewhere when she finished playing for the Cajuns.

 

But first she got the chance to try out for the newly-minted U.S. Olympic Team, had a three-week tryout and got to catch Lisa Fernndez, and won a gold medal in the U.S. Olympic Festival.

 

She also stayed in south Louisiana once she married Robert, the school's P.A. announcer who proposed at home plate.

 

And she joined the Foster ad agency with her public relations degree and has worked her way up to President/Owner of the firm. She was reached on the road in Pittsburgh for the story.

 

Things all fell into place, she said.

 

That kind of thing seems to happen for Harris, whose near-perfect day in 1995 was a defining moment of many memorable ones since then.

Tiffany Whittall Harris

 

All-American catcher, 1995

 

.994 career fielding percentage (1,389 of 1,474 chances); .998 single season.

 

Set NCAA record with two grand slam home runs, 11 RBI, 13 total bases in one inning in 29-0 win over Samford on April 15, 1995.

 

College World Series 1993, 1995

 

Gold Medal in U.S. Olympic Festival, 1995

 

Inducted into UL Athletic Hall of Fame, 2007

 

Advertising executive, Foster Agency

 

Married to Robert Harris; son Hogan was UL baseball pitcher, 2015-18

* * * * * * *
2006 Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

 
Tiffany Harris, Past President, Ragin' Cajun Lettermen Club; Nia Kiggundu, honoree; Tommy Badon, President.

* * * * * * * *

Click here for the photo gallery of the 1993 Softball Team, featuring the first USL team to participate in the WCWS.

Click here for the Athletic Network Profile of Tiffany Whittall Harris.

* * * * * * *
Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.



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