After a summer full of cancelled games and practices due to thunderstorms and torrential rains (hard to believe now that we’re in the Fall with temperatures already dipping into the 40’s at night), the SOVA Loudoun Rangers made their first outing of the entire season to the biggest tournament of them all, the National Invitational Softball Championship held in Lynchburg VA on Sept 16-18.
This was a special event in itself being that is the first Special Olympics North America Softball Championship since 2019; the interim years were postponed due to Covid. Special Olympics Virginia, The Coca-Cola Company, Virginia Moose Association, Sheetz, and Lynchburg Parks and Recreation were the sponsors for this four-day event which featured 15 teams, more than 200 athletes and Unified partners, all representing states and provinces in the United States and Canada. Virginia was represented by the Loudoun Rangers, Spotsy Nationals and Area 8 Sox.
The Rangers seated in Div3 for High Performance Traditional Teams opened the Friday prelims with both teams in their divisions, the first one against an old foe from Kansas, the Topeka Stars, whom they had beat badly back in 2015 in Wichita, KS. The Stars remembered that loss and responded well by beating the Rangers to even up the scores. The next immediate game in the double header was against the FL Pasco Stars, where the Rangers’ bats came alive. But in the end it was not in our stars and the Rangers fell again to the FL Pasco Team.
Coming into the Tournament, we were notified that due to problem with coming up with enough games for the Unified Teams that the Rangers may have to play some games with the Unified Teams. Originally scheduled for 3 games against the Unified Teams, we were able to limit our exposures to one Unified Team on Saturday, where a triple header awaited. First in the lineup was the Aces from Ontario. Any thoughts that Canadians are only good at hockey were wiped out as the Aces handed the Rangers a defeat, proving that the dirt was their friends as well as the ice in the North.
The second game in the triple header was against a neighbor to the North, the PA Olympic Flames. The Rangers started out giving up runs and hits in the early rounds and found themselves down after 4 innings. But after that they started to stage a comeback behind monstrous hits from the top of the lineup led by Scott Brawley, Sam Krogh, Joey Barnett, Ryan Savage, Steven Bagot. Innings by innings, the Rangers came back and then the bottom of the lineup started to respond as well with everyone joining in the hit parade: Andres Sincek, David Knight, Ian Pham, Philip Coe, Jimmy Apperson, Chris Robinson. The Rangers put up the first come-from-behind victory and all moods were lifted.
Coming into the third game, they faced their first Unified Team, the Area 8 Sox. By this time, the Rangers buoyed by their early victory were raring to go. Many hits and runs were traded and the Rangers dueled well but succumbed to the Sox in the end after a tight battle.
Coming into the final day, the Rangers thought they only had two games left. However a victory in the rematch against the PA Olympic Flames allow them into the second game of the day against the FL Pasco Stars. Seeing the Stars the second time in two days didn’t improve our results much and the Rangers fell again to the Florida All-Stars team.
Down but not out, the Rangers had a chance to vie for the Bronze Medal in a third game in the final day of competition against the NY Genesee Splash. All tired and worn out by the heat at this time, the Rangers fought valiantly. They came close in the end in a monstrous inning where the entire lineup batted; many runs and hits were scored but the Splash held onto a win in the end and the Rangers got fourth place.
The Loudoun Rangers season thus came to an end after extending it for a month into the August and September heat to prepare for the National Tournament. We would like to thank everyone in the Loudoun Special Olympics Council: Wilson Chua, James Spiering, Cynthia Miller, Andy Burns, Cynthia Clark, Andy Stromberg, Joe Bleull, Adam Elliott Bell, Chris Caesar, Veronica Jennings, Olivia Kurzeja, Joyce Cavagnaro, for having supported us this entire season. Your support meant a great deal to all the athletes and the coaches and parents of the Loudoun Rangers.
A special thanks also to Coach Paula Culvyhouse who traveled all the way to Lynchburg to cheer us on.