What does it take to classify ones self as a winner?
“Our team has been around for five years now, four of which we ended up winning the softball championship.” Lenore assistant coach Deanna Wellman stated.
The girls that have played for the Lenore Rangers have truly built something special in the community around this team.
The streak as it is referred too by players and coaches, is one where over the past four years the Rangers hadn’t surrendered a loss to any opposing county team.
That streak was snapped this season, though.
“Unfortunately, we suffered a lose this year,” said coach Wellman.
The young ladies that make up the Rangers had a huge learning curve they had to conquer.
“We had girls that had to play positions they had never played before and even some girls getting a lot of playing time that had never played the game before,” Wellman said.
All of these are good enough reasons some coaches would chalk the season up as a learning experience.
Not this team. Not these young ladies. After the streak ended, girls on the team expressed emotions, saying things like they were “hurt” and “felt like they let the girls before them down”.
At the same time, it was almost a sense of relief.
After a something like the streak comes to an end what would winners do after that?
They get back up and hold themselves accountable and simply keep winning.
In fact, the Rangers made it all the way back to the county tournament semifinal game.
Lenore faced off with Matewan in the tournament semifinals.
“Going into the game we had already beat Matewan twice in season and mercy ruled them both times, so I think we were a little over confident when we faced them this time,” Lenore shortstop Tailyn Russell said.
“You know, our girls have battled all year and being down late in games is something they were almost used to,” Wellman said.
And though the girls were down late in a lot of ball games this year, they still ended the season 13-2 so it is very safe to say these young ladies had mastered the art of the comeback, even garnering the nickname the comeback kids from the coaches and parents.
The semifinal matchup against Matewan had an all to familiar feeling for the Rangers. Lenore found themselves down 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
“The whole time we had to tell our selves to not get down and that we could come back we just had to stay positive,” Kyla Waller said.
With Runners on second and third, Telena Canterbury stepped into the box and hits a two RBI double to make it 5-3.
In the top of the seventh, the Rangers quickly notched three straight outs as if they were in a hurry to have a shot at winning.
In the bottom of the seventh, after a Madison Dekins double, the Rangers found themselves with runners back on second and third with two outs.
That’s when Andrea Newsome put her feet firmly in the brick dust for the final time this game. Not because she struck out, but because with the game on the line she made contact with the ball
“I hit the ball and was running to first and saw Mickey jumping up and down so I kept running, then I rounded second and saw Deanna jumping up and down, so I had to keep going, it was definitely the fastest I had ran in my entire life,” Newsome said..
Newsome ran all the way around the diamond. Bringing in two of her teammates to seal the win with a walk-off inside the park home-run.
“Y’all are lucky I just got a new set of wheels,” Newsome jokingly said upon returning to the dugout with her teammates.
With victory came an all new set of trials and tribulations. A championship set of trials and tribulations.
On May 8th, the Rangers were set to battle the Williamson Wolfpack, a familiar foe for the Rangers and also one of the biggest county rivals.
At the end third inning, the momentum was in favor of the Wolfpack with them leading 3-1 and looking to put the dreams and aspirations of the Rangers to bed.
Lenore wasn’t ready to lay down and give up just yet.
“When someone made a mistake we felt like it was the dugouts job to make sure they knew it was just a mistake and they could always make up for it,” Hannah Maynard said.
And like a unified symphony orchestra, the girls banded together to go on a six-run rally in the fourth to give Lenore the 7-3 lead.
However it felt as if momentum was still in favor of the Wolfpack. That was short lived however as Makenna Osborne set the tone on defense in the fifth inning when she had a fly ball hit her way and tracked it down to get the first out of the inning. Osborne’s catch was ridiculous just based on the amount of ground she covered in a short amount of time to make such a spectacular play. The tone Osborne had set was something the girls remembered from practices before the game.
“We have to run if we don’t give maximum effort when making a catch. We have to be really disciplined if we want to win a championship,” the team agreed.
The Rangers held the Wolfpack scoreless in the fifth, but also failed to score themselves. However, late in the sixth inning the Rangers were able to add two more runs to their scoring total making the score 9-3 with momentum on the rangers side at this point in the game.
Lenore’s Laura Spualding sealed the deal with another maximum effort play on defense in the seventh and final inning. Spaulding backhanded the ball in the as she was dashing to toward the fence and made a spectacular play.
The Rangers clinched the championship and their status as a middle school softball dynasty in West Virginia.
So, what does it take to be classified as a winner?
The Lenore Middle School Softball Rangers have shown time and time again that as much as it is about the sweat, the blood, and the tears and the streak, being a winner means you get back up each time when you don’t feel as if you have another drop of energy left and simply keep winning.
If anyone would like to donate or sponsor the team please call 1-304-475-2458 (Lenore Middle School). Also to see the full exclusive interview about the journey of these young women tune into the Bank On It podcast.