The Delaware Magic National Softball Association travel team struck it big, winning three championship games at a weekend tournament in Dover.
The Magic’s 10U-, 12U- and 16U-division teams all won their championship games and very soon will head off to compete in their respective nationals tournaments.
The 10U team trounced the Talleyville Travelers of Talleyville, Md., 10-0 in a well-pitched outing by Jodee Powell, and Katie Lempke of Easton struck out two of the Delaware Diamonds’ last three hitters to secure a 5-3 win in the championship game.
The Magic jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and held the Diamonds scoreless until they mounted a sixth-inning three-run comeback. Lempke snuffed them out.
“They’re good,” Magic 10U head coach Joe Bernheimer said. “They’ve beat us a couple of times and we beat them too, so it was pretty much evened up.”
This championship win, amazingly, marks the team’s third straight. But even more spectacularly, Bernheimer played mostly 7- and 8-year-olds, compared to the 10- and 11-year-olds they generally played against.
“And I have a large number of players,” Bernheimer said of his group of 16. “But I have at least five 8-year-olds that spend a lot of time on the field. And three or four girls are sisters of older players.”
For instance, Milford resident Whitney Demora, 7, has practiced with the team since last year. She registered five hits in the tournament. And in the lone tournament loss, Bernheimer played every one of his 8-year-olds in the infield.
“We were already seeded first, so I thought I’d get the younger players some playing time,” he said. “And seeing how we only lost 6-2 to 11-year-olds, that isn’t bad. You can tell that these girls are going to be players if they stick with it.” (The 11-year-olds are permitted to play with the 10U division if their birthdays were prior to Jan. 1.)
The Magic’s 12U program beat the Diamonds’ Black and Teal teams in the semi-finals and the championship, respectively.
Seaford resident Kim Smith pitched both games, behind strong hitting, to beat the Diamonds’ Black team 11-5, and the Diamonds’ Teal team in the championship, 9-0.
The Magic 16U team stormed through the semifinals in a 13-0 three-inning game, which set them up against the Cobras’ Black team in the championship.
The Magic trailed the Cobras 2-0 in the sixth inning, but they made up the difference and then some by tacking on six runs in the bottom half of the inning, for the eventual championship-winning score of 6-2.
“It took us a little while to catch up to their (pitching) speed from the first game,” Magic 16U head coach Sharon Hunter said. “The first game, they were pitching about 50 mph, and the second game was closer to 58 mph.”
“But the girls showed a lot of heart,” Hunter continued. “We’ve had a hard time getting down and fighting back. But I told the girls to show their heart on their sleeve and they pulled through.”
Hunter mentioned that her team is lacking a big-time power-hitter, so the strategy was to put the ball in play and hope for mistakes.
“We’re a small, scrappy team. But today it was a total team effort,” Hunter said. “We ran, hit and pitched very well.”
The tournament marks the Magic’s 16U first championship win in five tournament appearances. They’ve earned a second place and two third-place finishes, and are now preparing for the Rising Star showcase in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 18-22.
Nearly 200 colleges will be in attendance at the showcase.
The Magic’s 14U team suffered a few mental lapses on their way to a fourth-place finish.
The Vipers tied them in a last-inning comeback and, despite having beaten the Delmarva Shorebirds several times this season, lost to them this time, 3-0 in the second round.
“When you’re dealing with kids who compete in so many games, it’s hard to always play at a high level,” Magic 14U head coach Mike Shehorn said. “But, overall, it was good preparation for the nationals. And, ultimately, we had an opportunity to play some good competition — and that’s all you can ask for.”