HIALEAH, Fla. (May. 24, 2023) – The dry, cool air of DuBois, Pa., surrounded Heindl Memorial Field, as the two-time national champions Florida National University softball team looked to secure another United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) title at the Small College World Series (SCWS).
While the Conquistadors were warming up in the batting cages, FNU catcher Kaylee Pitman spotted a young girl tossing a rubber softball in and out of her worn glove. Pitman calls the girl over, instantly wanting to know more about the softball hopeful.
Soon other players joined in, including senior shortstop Megen Johnson. Johnson and Hayley Zimmerman slipped on a green Florida National Dri-Fit shirt and handed her a green visor embroidered with an FNU logo square at the center.
Clad with warpaint made of glue and shimmering green and yellow glitter courtesy of designated player Bailey Fernandez, Zoey was a Conquistador in the making.
FNU players Olyvia Goebel and Danika Lagodzinski pose for a picture with Zoey Bergman.
This small act of kindness eventually lead young Zoey Bergman to score an invitation to FNU’s dugout an hour before taking the field versus the Mississippi University for Women Owls in game one of the tournament.
With opening day lineups and the national anthem echoing in the stands at Heindl Field, Zoey stood proudly between junior pitcher Jona Goolsby and freshman left fielder Sabrina Castelli.
Game one for the Conquistador was one to remember, as FNU rallied for a 13-12 win over the Owls in eight innings. Zoey was never too far from the action, warming up with the team and cheering in the dugout to some classic FNU softball chants.
After making an unprecedented comeback, the team erupted in a gleeful chant in honor of their good luck charm.
“Zoey, Zoey, Zoey!” the team said.
Zoey’s mother, Nicole Bergman, later wrote in a Facebook post about the experience and what it meant to her daughter.
“The girls at Florida National University Athletics are nothing short of absolutely incredible,” Nicole said.
FNU left it all out on the turf at the USCAA Championship, earning a 1-2 record over their three-day stay. Goolsby showed true grit from the circle clocking in 150 pitches in game one before pitching all but one inning in the next two contests.
Following a 10-1 loss to the Salem Tigers on May 16 and a 4-2 defeat in a rematch versus the Owls the following day, FNU’s dreams of a three-peat came to a close.
Despite their early exit, FNU players did not hang their heads. The Conquistadors looked to return the favor to a burst of energy that electrified their play in game one and made plans with Nicole to surprise Zoey at her little league softball game at 6:30 p.m. on the other side of Heindl Field.
With posterboard signs that sparkled with neon-colored letters and polka-dots reading ‘Go Zoey’, the entire FNU team on the trip arrived at Zoey’s game to her amazement and excitement.
Lining the outfield of the little league field mere feet from where their championship hopes were crushed, the Conquistadors rallied around one local that offered them encouragement and support through their tournament adversity.
Various FNU softball players were impressed with just how good Zoey performed on the field. She was stellar, connecting on hits and running the bases extremely well.
“She’s a baller,” right fielder Sydni Bigelli said.
Nicole took to Facebook and thanked the FNU girls for the way they treated her Zoey throughout their short stay in Pennslyvania.
“Thank you, girls, for being so sweet and such a huge inspiration to these girls,” Nicole said. “They will never forget this moment.”
Zoey did not forget her time in the FNU dugout. Inspired by Goolsby’s tenacity from the circle, Zoey had her first private pitching lesson on May 22.
“She knows that this is something she’s going to have to work at and practice a lot,” Nicole said. “But she wants to keep going and keep learning, so that’s what we’re gonna do.”
No matter who claimed a title that week or raised a gold trophy, FNU softball showed true commitment to sportsmanship and a real love for the game of softball, DuBois and Zoey.