The Carolina Cardinals fast pitch softball organization, started by the late hall of famer Ray Chandler in King back in 1989, is still carrying on his winning tradition. The 18 and under team won back-to-back national championships with an eight game sweep of the competition in Salem, Oregon last week.
“Feels pretty good and exciting to win another national championship with this team,” said Cardinal head coach Rick McHone. “The girls played really well all week and they played with a purpose. As far as Ray Chandler, we know he is always with us in spirit and his family continues to be big supporters of the organization. It’s an honor to have them rooting for us.”
The Cardinals opened up the tournament with an 8-0 shutout victory over Blaze and then beat All-American Mizuno B Team 7-2 in game two. In game three, the team won a close 5-4 victory over Idaho Crush and then beat RR Gold 9-2 in game four. North Stokes Lora Beth Wood keyed a Cardinal victory over the gold team with a three-run homer to expand the Cardinal lead from a one run lead to a four run advantage.
In games five and six the Cardinals continued to put runs on the board with exceptional pitching for a 15-0 win over Stealth and a 13-1 victory over USA Explosion.
“I was really happy with the way our pitchers dominated this past week,” stated pitching coach Jordan Stevens and head West Stokes softball coach. “The girls worked well together and feed off of each other. It was a great experience working with them and winning another championship with this group of girls.”
In the semifinals, the Cardinals faced their toughest test of the week against the Minnesota Magic by winning 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Davie County’s McKenzie Barneycastle led the inning off with a bunt single on a 1-2 count, she stole second and then moved to third on Abby Settlemyre’s fourth hit of the day. Barneycastle then scored the game winner from third on a fielder’s choice by Sierra Parkinson to win the game.
In the championship game, the Red Birds jumped on USA All-American Mizuno number one team 5-0 after two innings of play and then run ruled them in the bottom of the six with five unanswered runs to win 13-5 and earned the ASA 18A National Championship title.
“There were several key plays throughout the tournament that propelled us at key times in each of the games,” said McHone. “Again, we are just really proud of the girls and the way we played.”
The Cardinal team not only features McHone, Stevens, and Wood from the Stokes County area, but South Stokes assistant coach Mike Calloway and Katie Manring, who didn’t make the trip because of a torn labrum.
The Cardinals have won three national championships since 2013 and will receive a bid to defend their championship in Salem, Va. next August.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.