Special Olympics softball team opens season



In the bottom of the third and final inning, the Jackson County Tornadoes needed to make three outs to open the season with a win.

Pitcher Josh Beals gave up an inside-the-park home run before striking out the next two Cass County batters and allowing two more hits.

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The next batter hit the ball to shallow left field, and shortstop Tim Ashburn fielded the ball and threw it to third baseman Dale Hickman, who caught a runner off base.

Hickman tagged him for the third out, giving the Tornadoes a 9-5 win in their first game of a Special Olympics softball tournament in Greenwood.

“I can’t believe it,” Hickman said of being a part of the game-ending play. “We came together as a team.”

The Tornadoes then had about two hours until their other game. Between eating lunch and dealing with the hot weather, the Tornadoes fell behind 4-0 in the first inning against Elkhart County and went on to lose 7-2, finishing 1-1 on the day.

Considering the hot and windy conditions, Hickman was happy with how the 15-member team played.

“We just go out there and just have fun together,” he said.

The Tornadoes started the day strong. In the top of the first inning against Cass County, Adam Lee led off with a double and scored on Beals’ single. Getz followed with a single to center field.

Then after an out and a walk, Alysha Sandlin hit a bases-loaded RBI single to make it 2-0. Jeremiah Griffin then was out at first base on a ground ball, but Ashburn scored on the play for a 3-0 lead.

Cass County responded in the bottom half with three runs, two of which came on a single. Beals ended the inning with a strikeout with the bases loaded.

With one out in the top of the second inning, Cheroki Isgrigg, Kayla Kriete and Lee received walks to load the bases. Beals singled to score Isgrigg to make it 4-3, but Cass County completed a double play to end the threat.

After holding Cass County scoreless in the bottom of the second, the Tornadoes added some insurance in the top of the third inning. They sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs on hits by Ashburn and Sandlin, bases-loaded walks by Griffin, Montana Casto and Sarah Kinser and a fielder’s choice by Donald Bennethum. Lee hit a two-out double to right field, but he was out when trying to reach third.

Beals had five strikeouts in his debut in the circle.

“I liked it,” he said of taking on that role for the team. “I think what I need to work on is an aiming section.”

In the second game, Elkhart County scored on a bases-loaded single and a bases-loaded walk before a strikeout. A two-run single made it 4-0, and Beals gave up a walk to load the bases before recording a strikeout.

Jackson County came right back with a single by Lee and an inside-the-park home run by Getz to pull within 4-2. Ashburn then singled, but Elkhart County ended the threat with a strikeout, a walk and another strikeout.

With one out in the top of the second, Elkhart County came up with a hit and a walk before clearing the bases on an inside-the-park home run, making it 7-2.

From there, Jackson County could only come up with two base runners — on a single by Zoe Miller and a walk by Bennethum in the bottom of the second — but they were stranded after two strikeouts.

Elkhart County closed the game by striking out the side.

The Tornadoes have seven new players this season.

Hickman is among them. He said he has played Special Olympics softball for four years, including with Jackson and Washington counties.

Getz is another newcomer. He hadn’t played softball in seven years. On Saturday, he played first base for the first game and most of the second game until relieving Beals in the circle.

“I’m glad I’m back,” Getz said. “I missed it a lot, and I’m just happy that I’m back in it.”

Hitting an inside-the-park home run made his return even sweeter.

“It was actually pretty shocking,” he said. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to make a home run, but it’s something I wanted to do. It felt awesome.”

Bennethum and Beals are among the returning players.

“I thought it was really good. I thought the team came together really well,” said Bennethum, an outfielder. “I like the teammates. They play really good. They show really good team effort. It’s all about sportsmanship.”

Beals said it was a good day of softball.

“I think everybody was just respectful to each other, having fun, enjoying how much they care about each other and trying to get along and all of that,” he said.

Even though the second game ended in a loss, Beals said everyone still played hard.

“One thing I always learned through a saying my grandfather taught me through a movie, ‘If you win some, praise God. If you lose some, praise God no matter what,’” he said.

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