The North Carolina Central softball team won three in a row this weekend over South Carolina State.
With the sweep of the Bulldogs, the Lady Eagles (14-24, 5-7) are now in sole possession of fourth place in the MEAC. And the spark to their weekend sweep was the presence of a vegetable in the dugout. Almost three months ago junior Miriam Duen took a routine trip to Walmart. While she was there, Duen picked up a butternut squash with plans on preparing a squash spaghetti. She never got around to it, and the squash just sat in her kitchen. Duen also felt like the team needed more energy in the dugout, and was looking for a pick me up for her and her teammates. So before the Lady Eagles boarded the bus for Orangeburg on Friday, Duen had an idea. She grabbed a marker, painted eyes, a nose and a mouth on the squash, named it Joe, and suddenly the NCCU softball team had a new mascot that would accompany them on their latest road trip.
Since the squash, or Joe, had survived months in her room without going bad, Duen felt it was lucky. At first she got some strange looks from her teammates when she got on the bus carrying a squash with a drawn on face.
“Some people were confused,” Duen said. “Others just went along with it.”
The Eagles started the weekend series with a 7-0 win on Saturday behind a no-hitter from Courtney Mirabella. By the second game, a 4-2, more teammates were opening up Joe. When NCCU completed the sweep Sunday with a 8-5 win, Joe was officially accepted as the good luck charm.
Joe has been under the care of Duen, who even brought Joe with them to their team dinner on Saturday, sitting with some of Duen’s teammates at another table. When the team warms up, Joe is placed nearby to watch the team warm up. During the game, Joe is placed in a cubby inside the dugout, staying there until the Eagles would get a hit. That’s when Joe would take a lap around the dugout, meaning Duen would pick him up and run around while the rest of the team would chant, “Joe, Joe, Joe.”
The Eagles have another big series coming up this weekend against rival North Carolina A&T, with the winner advancing to the MEAC tournament. Now Duen has to decide how to keep Joe fresh for another week. The locker room was an option, but it tends to get too hot in there, Duen decided. So she will just stick with what works.
“I might just keep out on top of my counter since that’s where he’s been sitting for the last two months and has been perfectly fine,” Duen said.