Special Olympics softball season underway


Hearing bats pinging, crowds cheering and encouraging words.

Seeing great fielding, pitching, catching and sportsmanship on the field and excitement after getting a hit or winning a game.

It’s that time of year again: Special Olympics Indiana softball.

On Aug. 7, teams from the around the state converged at Center Grove Lassie League in Greenwood for the Johnson County tournament.

That included the Jackson County Tornadoes, who battled with the Monroe County Sluggers in their first matchup and wound up in a 4-4 tie and then fell to the Ripley Ohio Dearborn Hot Rods 14-5. Games have an hour-and-15-minute time limit.

These will be the only games for the Tornadoes until they return to the same ballpark Aug. 28 for the state tournament.

“I thought everyone did great for the first games of the year,” coach Jim Shepherd said. “We were nervous during the first game and did not hit as well as we usually do. The second game was against a good team. It was good preparation for the state tournament coming up. We need to get back to practice and work on the basics of fielding and hitting.”

These also were the first softball games for the Tornadoes since the summer of 2019 because the county program chose not to play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against the Sluggers, the Tornadoes got off to a solid start with Dennis England drawing a one-out walk, Tim Ashburn singling and James Knight bringing them home with a single. That made it 2-0.

After going down in order in the second inning, Jackson County got a one-out double from Ashburn before Knight hit an inside-the-park home run to even the game at 4.

“It was a pretty good home run. I hit it really hard,” Knight said, smiling, of his big hit.

In the third inning, the Tornadoes had one last chance to break the tie, but they went down in order.

“Oh, I was ready,” Knight said of playing in his first game in two years. “(The team) did pretty good. We could work on catching balls a little bit.”

Teammate Dale Hickman said even though the game ended in a tie, he was proud of the Tornadoes’ effort.

“The first game was good. Both teams were equally matched,” he said. “It was excellent, a very excellent team.”

While the Tornadoes and Sluggers both are Level 3 teams, Jackson County had to face a Level 2 team in the second game.

The Hot Rods piled up the runs in the top of the first inning, but Shepherd was glad to see the Tornadoes not give up.

In the bottom half, Thomas Emly and Josh Beals opened with back-to-back singles, but Emly was tagged out when trying to make it a double.

The Tornadoes had Donald Bennethum reach first base on an error with one out in the second inning, but the next two batters struck out.

Then in the third inning, Jackson County scored its five runs. England and Amanda Hamm drew walks, and Emly singled to bring them both across home plate. Beals followed with a two-RBI single, and Ashburn doubled but was tagged out at third base when trying to extend his hit.

Knight walked and later scored the team’s final run.

“They are trying their hardest,” Knight said of the team’s performance in the second game. “(The Hot Rods) are good. If we try a little harder and work a little bit harder as a team, then we can do it.”

Beals said the team played hard.

“I think we gave it our all and hung in there tough,” he said.

Angel Roe, who is in her first year of playing softball, agreed.

“We didn’t give up. We kept trying,” she said. “It was my first games, and it was fun. A lot of us got to have a chance to play.”

Hamm said while the Tornadoes were a little discouraged when they got down in the second game, they were happy to come back and score some runs against a good team.

Ashburn said he appreciates the good coaching of Shepherd, and teammate Derrick Martin said with more practice, the Tornadoes will be ready for the state tournament.

“We’ll get better in practice and try to win some medals,” Beals said.

“I can’t wait,” Roe said of playing at state. “It’s just fun getting ready for it, and it’s even fun afterwards.”

No posts to display