Jackson County Tornadoes softball team begins with a flurry

To participate in the postseason, Special Olympics Indiana softball teams must play at least two games by a certain deadline.

The Jackson County Tornadoes decided to go a step further.

Between Aug. 3 and 7, they played five games.

While they tied in one and weren’t able to record in a win in the others, the Tornadoes battled tough in the quick start to the season.

“The team had its highs and lows this weekend,” one of the coaches, Matt Nicholson, said. “The record doesn’t show things like improvements made on the field, the smiles for days from players, fans and coaches, the ‘Good job’ for teammates and opponents on a well-made play. As a coach, I see some skills we will work on this week at practice, and I can’t wait to take the field again on the 20th to see how much the Tornadoes have improved.”

The season opener was Aug. 3 at Kasting Park in Seymour against the Lawrence County Outlaws, a Unified team. The Tornadoes are a Level 3 traditional team, while the Outlaws have a mix of Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners.

Lawrence County opened the game with six runs, and Jackson County got two back in the bottom of the first inning when Thomas Emly tripled and then scored on a single by Chaz Rothrock and Rothrock scored when Josh Beals reached first base on an error.

The Outlaws then scored seven runs in the second inning and added eight more in the third inning, all unanswered, for a 21-2 final score. The only other hits in the game for the Tornadoes were a single by Donald Bennethum in the second inning and a single by Beals in the third.

This past weekend, Jackson County played in back-to-back tournaments.

The first was the Johnson County tournament at Center Grove Lassie League in Greenwood, where the Tornadoes were edged by the Howard County Wildcats 11-9 and wound up in an 8-8 tie against Warrick County. Games have a one-hour time limit.

Jackson County scored first in both games. Against Howard County, Rothrock started with a single and scored on a two-out single by Tim Ashburn. The Wildcats then put up eight runs in the bottom of the first inning, but the Tornadoes matched that in the top of the second.

Bennethum, Rothrock, Todd Smith and Ashburn had singles, Beals doubled and Emly tripled. Emly had three RBI, Rothrock had two and Ashburn had one. Runs were scored by Alysha Sandlin, Bennethum, Derrick Martin, Kayla Kriete, Rothrock, Emly, Beals and Ashburn.

The Tornadoes, however, couldn’t hang onto the one-run lead, as they gave up three runs in the bottom of the third.

Against Warrick County, Jackson County put up three first-inning runs. Leadoff Rothrock again came through with a hit, this time a double. Emly followed with an RBI single, and Beals and Smith had back-to-back RBI singles.

The Tornadoes then went up 8-0 with five more runs in the top of the second. Rothrock and Beals each had a two-RBI double.

From there, though, Warrick County scored five runs in the bottom of the second and three more in the third to even the score right before the game ended.

Also Saturday, Owen Law was Jackson County’s sole player participating in the individual skills competition, which consists of base running, throwing, fielding and hitting. He earned a ribbon for his efforts.

On Sunday, Jackson County competed in the Shelby County tournament for the first time. Both of their games were against higher-level teams, and the Tornadoes battled.

Despite losing to the Decatur County Jaguars 7-2 and Shelby County Reds 13-1, Jackson County’s defense shut down the opponent’s offense in three innings.

One of those scoreless innings was the first game against Decatur County. In the bottom half of the first inning, the Tornadoes lit up the scoreboard first with Rothrock tripling and then scoring on Emly’s groundout. Beals followed with a single and scored on Smith’s two-out single.

Decatur County then responded with all seven of its runs in the top of the second inning, and Jackson County could only muster one hit the rest of the game, a single by Emly to open the bottom of the third inning.

In the game against the Reds, Rothrock tripled and later scored on Beals’ single in the top of the first inning for a 1-0 lead.

Shelby County responded with nine runs in the bottom of the first inning and its other four runs in the second inning. Rothrock’s single in the third was Jackson County’s only other hit.

He had quite the showing in joining Jackson County’s team for the first time this summer.

“We did good catching the ball and hitting the ball,” Rothrock said.

Teammate Bennethum agreed.

“I saw good plays,” he said. “We had good teamwork. We got along with everybody. We got along with the other teams. We had good games, even though we lost. We’ll come back, though.”

Going forward, Smith and Emly both said the Tornadoes need to listen to their coaches — Nicholson, Jason Kleber, Jim Shepherd and Ashleigh White — and have good teamwork.

“It went well. We just need to work on things if people are doing a new position on offense and defense,” Smith said.

Martin said he enjoyed getting the season underway, too.

“This weekend, the games were good,” he said. “We met people from the other teams, and next year, we’ll do this again to meet more new people.”

The Tornadoes will be back in action Aug. 20 in Seymour, as they will host the Monroe County Sluggers for a game at noon during the Seymour Noon Lions Club’s 12th annual Pig in the Park and Family Fun Fair.

Sectionals are set for Aug. 27 if there are enough teams to compete around the state. The state tournament is set for Sept. 10 in Greenwood.