Local softball team reaches national title gamesPublished 9:39pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013
The Orion Hunter Fastpitch 12U Teal team set the stage for a dramatic national championship doubleheader in a recent Florida tournament. The squad battled long and hard, and though it finished as runner up, the fact remained that it was the second consecutive year this group of girls had reached a national title game.
Last year, the team won the National Softball Association Nationals, and this year they performed well, despite dropping the final two games in the United States Softball Specialty Sports Association 11U National Championships at the Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The 12U Teal team included a trio of local girls who described what it was like to have been on the national stage two years in a row.
Windsor’s E.J. Bankson, 12, said to her, it meant “that we’re a good team.”
“It was really cool because we’re really young,” said 11-year-old Addy Greene of Suffolk.
“It makes our whole team happy to just make it there, even though we didn’t win,” said Windsor’s Makayla Burks, 11.
The Florida event was a double-elimination tournament in which the Orion Hunter 12U Teal team dispatched one challenging opponent after another.
“The level of competition down there is about as good as you can get in girls’ softball at the younger ages,” 12U Teal head coach Larry Murphy said.
Next, Orion Hunter faced off against Easton Speed 01, a team from Tennessee. The Virginia team dealt Easton Speed its first loss of the tournament, 1-0. However, the Tennessee squad ended up advancing through the losers bracket to set up themselves up for a national title if they could beat the 12U Teal squad twice.
The stage for the first game was massive as it was broadcast on ESPN 3. There was also a special significance to the field of play.
“Our coach told us that it was a field that Olympians played on, so we felt really good about that and it was really exciting,” Burks said.
Easton Speed managed to win the first game 5-3, but Orion Hunter and the local girls made the second one more difficult. They did so despite fatigue, as the first game lasted about 90 minutes and the second game came shortly thereafter, extending to two and a half hours.
“E.J. pitched four innings and only let in two runs, so she did a good job on that,” Greene said.
Greene contributed with strong play in center field and timely hitting throughout the tourney.
The game was tied 2-2 near the end of regulation when Burks came up with a diving catch in right field.
“If Makayla wouldn’t have caught that, they would have won,” Greene said.
Instead, the game ended up going into four extra innings.
“It was really scary,” Greene said. “Then when you got some runs, you kind of felt a little better, but not very much.”
Ultimately, the 12U Teal team fell 6-4, but Coach Murphy and the coaches put the focus on returning to a national title game.
“I told them basically I didn’t care if they won or lost, we were just proud that they had done it again,” he said.
He said the reason for their success is each of the girls “just has a deep desire to not only win but just to do well.”
Bankson said it was “because we all are really good teammates and we have a bond together and good coaches.”