SALISBURY — Parents of the Mid-Atlantic Shockers girls softball team spent the better part of last week shuffling around Wicomico County in the stifling heat. But all the travel, cooler and equipment packing and quick meals on the road were worth it in the end as the Under 14 team took the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Eastern World Series in convincing style.
“We took it all,” Coach Joe Leque said. “We weren’t supposed to, but we did.”
The Ocean Pines resident was pretty sure the team would have a rebuilding season this year, especially after a rocky start. Only about half of the kids who played on last year’s team returned and integrating all the new personalities together was a concern for Leque.
He said the first step was to build unity and the kids who returned this year were just the right ones to form the nucleus around which the newcomers could coalesce.
“We started out the year rough,” he said. “If these girls didn’t have the heard they had we wouldn’t have made it.”
Early losses and less-than-stellar performances might have subdued the team and made the season both long and difficult to remain enthused about. But the girls on the team eventually found their stride and came into this final tournament of the season with not only determination but also confidence.
It was something they needed as they kicked off the tournament facing the Forrest Hill Red Heat, a team that hadn’t lost a game in 18 months. The team dug down and got it done, besting them 9-7 and moving into the winner’s bracket.
They went on to fall behind 8-0 early to the Southern Maryland Velocity but struggled back and took the game 10-9 in extra innings.
Putting other competitors away gave them the challenge and the privilege of demonstrating their early win was no fluke as they were put in a position where they had to beat the Red Heat twice Sunday in order to win it all.
The first game was a 4-0 saunter but the final game had its share of hairy moments as the Shockers finished off the Red Heat 8-5.
Shockers players also took top individual awards for the tournament. Outstanding Pitcher went to Melanie Showell, Offensive Player went to Ashley Bennett, and Beth Anne Leque won the tournament MVP.
While the under 14 team surprised everyone except themselves, the under 18 team struggled in their weekend tournament, surviving early play only to be knocked out during the bracket section.
Coach Allen Welch said the team lost one player to the heat and another to an ankle injury and had trouble coming back from the diminished roster.
It just wasn’t our weekend,” he said. “We had our big weekend when we played at the state tournament.”
The team won five games in a row last month’s state tournament.
The Shockers of all ages are already preparing for the fall season and will hold tryouts 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for the next two Saturdays at the Berlin Little League field and 1-3 p.m. the next two Sundays at the Shockers complex next to Barrett Chevrolet.