LSU senior third baseman Amanda Doyle wanted to continue the fight with her teammates.
Throughout what turned into an abbreviated 2020 season which came to a halt on March 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tigers were at their best living on the edge.
Nearly a third of LSU’s games – they were 21-3 overall – were decided by one run. The Tigers displayed their mettle with five wins in seven one-run contests, a characteristic Doyle – the team’s long-time staple at third base – believed would serve them well going forward.
“I think this season would have been great for us,” said Doyle, who has started in 208 of 210 career games. “This team showed fight. We had a lot of situations where we showed fight and determination. I’ve never seen a team work so hard. We were determined and dedicated to being great and it showed on the field. We weren’t done working and playing.”
And neither is Doyle.
After a two-week span of uncertainty once the season was cancelled, the NCAA voted to restore the eligibility of all spring sports athletes, enabling Doyle and four other seniors a sixth season in 2021.
“It was difficult and hard to wrap my head around it and it was hard having to say good-bye,” Doyle said. “It was hard not knowing whether we could get our eligibility back. During that time, I was optimistic. I knew we had people like our A.D. (Scott Woodward) fighting for us. I knew we had the right people asking for it. I just wanted something for the whole team.”
Until the NCAA’s ruling, one that came in the evening for the Santa Clarita, Calif. native, Doyle acknowledged dealing with some anxious moments and whether she would be able to wear purple and gold again.
“It was nerve-wracking during that day until the decision came out,” she said. “Everyone was so excited. I thought they would help the seniors because it hurts to have your season and your career end that way. I’m just blessed that everyone gets another year.”
Doyle was set to remain a part of LSU’s softball program in a different capacity this fall, returning as a student-coach and completing work on her degree in Elementary Education. One of the final steps in achieving that goal includes student teaching in the fall, an unlikely prospect this past spring.
Like the rest of her teammates, Doyle finished the spring semester taking online classes from home the past two months that required a different type of organization and discipline more than 1,800 miles away from LSU’s campus.
“Our dedication and work ethic will go into this summer,” Doyle said. “I think this time away has brought us even closer together. I think next year’s going to be great because we’re going to have everyone back, plus nine new freshmen that are studs. I’m really excited to see what next year’s team can do.”
With her schoolwork complete, Doyle remains active around her home, working on different aspects of her game without the luxury of being able to go to a nearby park which have remained closed during the COVID-19 health scare.
Doyle’s able to take advantage of a ‘big’ backyard where she can hit and takes time to sharpen her defensive skills and throws with her dad Judson Doyle.
“I wish I had more resources, but I can’t complain,” Doyle said. “At least I have something to stay productive, stay in a routine and make sure to have a plan each day. Not sitting around on the couch all day.”
At the time of the season’s postponement before LSU was scheduled March 13 to begin SEC play at South Carolina, Doyle had begun putting the pieces of her offensive game together.
Following a slow start where she batted .190 (4-of-23), Doyle hit safely in five of her last six games with two homers and a pair of RBIs and wound up hitting .268 with 14 RBIs.
“I was kind of getting figured out right when I needed to for SEC,” said Doyle, a career .283 hitter with 22 homers and 129 RBIs. “I was feeling good the weekend before and going into South Carolina. I’ve reflected on that and I know what to work on during this time off. I’m going to work hard, get better and get ready for next season.”
For Doyle, it’s a rare opportunity in the life of a college athlete to receive a sixth year of eligibility without having sustained a significant injury along the way.
It represents the chance to return to a school in the Deep South that opened its doors to a West Coast girl and gave Doyle everything she was looking for in a school and softball program.
“I wanted to go to a place where they would make me feel like I was at home and that’s exactly what LSU did,” Doyle said. “I had a couple of visits planned and LSU was first. I stepped foot on campus, Coach (Beth Torina) offered me and I took it. That’s where I wanted to be, and I don’t regret it all. LSU’s my home and the way they treat me there is all I could ever ask for.”