Witnesses in the field
Published 8:24 pm Saturday, July 20, 2013
Southside wins first softball title
The journey and the destination alike were sweet for players and teams that made up the city’s co-ed church softball league this spring. The league crowned its spring champion late Friday evening at John F. Kennedy Middle School when Southside Baptist Church ended a stellar season with a 10-1 victory over St. John’s Christian Church.
“It was a wonderful game, wonderful sportsmanship,” Southside head coach and pitcher James Lunsford said.
It was the first time that Southside had won the league title, and they did it after also winning the regular season for the first time, carrying a 13-1 record into Friday’s tournament.
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“We give all the praise to God for the season,” Lunsford said.
St. John’s also had a great year, finishing second in the regular season with a 12-2 record, but head coach Lozie Williams gave credit to Southside for being hard to beat: “Can’t take anything away from them.”
“Everywhere you hit the ball, they were there,” he said.
Southside had better success at placing the ball, and “we knew if we did that, we had a chance,” Lunsford said.
But as either coach indicated, the league represented far more to them than just wins and losses.
When asked what he enjoyed most about coaching St. John’s, Williams said, “Just having fun with the guys.”
“I think it brings fellowship between the churches,” said Wayne Turner, a Southside church member and fan of the team.
There were nine teams in the league this time, eight of them from Suffolk.
“It’s a diversity of people from the city,” said Ashley Story, a player for Hillcrest Baptist Church, which fell to Southside in the semifinal game.
“I love all the excitement,” St. John’s player Patrina Faulk said.
Family was a factor for Faulk too, as she said about half her team’s roster was relatives.
Story also noted that she gets to play with her dad, mom and brother.
Faulk referred to a simple, obvious appeal that motivated her and undoubtedly many to be in the league: “I like softball.”
While Tony Smith is an employee with Suffolk Parks and Recreation, he was off the clock Friday night but enjoying the games at JFK.
“I just came out to watch some good softball tonight,” he said.
Rob Ramos, also with Suffolk Parks and Recreation, helped run the event and was pleased to see one of the department’s goals met through the league.
“It gets the adults out here having fun, getting fit,” he said.
This was Ramos’ first time working with the church softball league, and he was pleasantly surprised.
“The biggest thing I like is that teams didn’t take it too seriously,” he said.
Hillcrest head coach Carolyn Drier said, “This year was better than all the years before.”
She credited the city for providing standardized bats rather than players bringing a potentially unfair variety, and she said girls were now allowed to hit smaller balls. She also praised the umpires for their steadfast control of the games and zero tolerance for bad behavior.
Teams embraced the league games as an opportunity to testify through their conduct.
“We love the opportunity to come out here and show what Southside is all about, which is showing Jesus in all we do,” player/coach Travis Devers said.
Mark Old of Hillcrest’s team said participating in the league is “also an outreach to the community” and within the team, as not all players attend church.
“We’ve actually had people over a period of time join the church through softball,” he said.
Lunsford said, “Our goal out here is just to be a light in a dark world.”