Special Olympics Marshall & Starke counties just completed their first season of softball and what an adventure it was!  They had a full roster for the Wildcats softball team with 17 athletes coached by Leroy VanDusen and Noel Soria.  They also had five athletes who participated in the Skills Competition and were coached by Sonja Soria. Athletes who participated in Skills compete at an individual level.  Events for skills athletes include fielding the ball, running the bases (timed), batting, and softball throwing.  Practices were held twice a week and they played five games before sectionals against local counties. 

 Sectionals were held in St Joseph County on August 26.  The Wildcats went in with their heads held high, lots of encouragement, chanted in the dugout, cheered each other on, had the best fans in the stands, and got the WIN!  One special moment happened with some serious teamwork.  The opposing team hit the ball and it hit the fence, almost a home run!  Center fielder, Justus Crum retrieved the ball and threw it all the way to home plate where Catcher, Dalton Dimmit tagged not one, but TWO runners coming in to score.  Double Play. Double Out!  Inning over. The ref came over and told us that in all the years he has coached/refereed, he had never seen that happen and congratulated the athletes for a job well done! The dugout was ecstatic. This wasn’t the only special moment; the entire team communicated with each other, worked well with each other, leaned on each other for encouragement/advice, and executed every single play! It was really a sight to see; the teamwork was incredible!  Each of our skills athletes also received a medal or ribbon! Some of them even achieved their personal best distances and times!!

Winning at Sectionals allowed the Wildcats to advance to the State competition.  A total of 29 teams across that state advanced to the Special Olympics Indiana State Softball Tournament.  The tournament was held at the Center Grove Lassie League Softball Complex in Greenwood, IN on September 9th.  Not only did the Wildcats team advance but all 5 of our skills athletes also advanced to the State Tournament!

The Wildcats competed against the Monroe County Sluggers; a very good team indeed, during the 1st game match-up.  It was a nail-biter.  The Wildcats ultimately took the win 10-9!  With some rest in between games, the Wildcats then competed against the Howard County Wildcats. The Marshall-Starke Wildcats took the outfield at the start of the game and Howard County scored 10 runs in the 1st inning.  They didn’t hang their heads, the Wildcats played hard and inched our way closer to the opposing team’s score.  The final score was Howard County 10, Marshall-Starke County Wildcats 7.  Another nail-biter!  Our Wildcats shut them down after the first inning and kept them from scoring any more runs throughout the rest of the game!  Outstanding!! Although they didn’t come up with a win during this matchup, the Wildcats were true winners in our book!  The Wildcats athletes received a silver medal at the State Tournament in their division.

Watching the athletes learn and progress in this sport has just simply been amazing.  Once the season got started things really started clicking for they athletes.  They made huge leaps and bounds in a very short time, came together as a team, and conquered! They should all be proud of themselves!  Special thanks to our incredible coaches and Plymouth Park Department who helped make our season possible!

Please find pictures attached of the team at Sectionals and the State Competition.

Marshall & Starke Counties Special Olympics 2023 Softball Athletes are:

Jason Birchmeier

Damian Buckner

Bobby Bunting

Justus Crum

Dalton Dimmitt

Thomas Hayes

Taylor Hesting

Jared Holt

Phillip Kersey

Christian Radican

Brittney Riffle

Michael Seaman

Asher Short

Roger Stoner

Lucas Thangam

TJ Trusty

Marcy Unternahrer

Annie Castle

Makayla Strickland

Todd Rininger

Valerie Luby

Denise Cole