A local 16-and-under softball team took a laid back approach to its summer season and the pay off was a World Series title.
The fun-loving Suburban Girls Softball Magic U16 fastpitch team won a USSSA World Series title in Canton, Mich. last month. The dozen players, who come from eight area high schools, compiled a 52-9 record this season by utilizing a carefree attitude.
“We certainly stress winning, but we don't emphasize it too much,” said Bill Beckham, one of the team's three volunteer coaches. “We just all enjoy it.”
The Magic is an all-star team of players who compete in the SGS organization.
Like most summer all-star teams, the Magic traveled the country to take on the best competition. But unlike other all-star teams, the Magic looked first to have fun.
“We like to have a good time when we go places,” Beckham said.
Another unusual aspect of the Magic was that its three coaches all do not have daughters on the team. Beckham, Bob Squire and Jack Simmons all do it strictly for enjoyment.
“It's always been fun and my wife says it keeps me out of trouble,” joked Beckham, who first joined the SGS 12 years ago when his daughter started playing.
Squire said many of the Magic players compete against each other during the high school season. But he said they quickly became friends.
“The girls spent a lot of time together and really got to know each other, not just as softball players, but as high school girls,” Squire said.
Beckham said a key to the casual atmosphere was the behavior of the parents.
“You won't meet nicer people,” he said. “They always helped out, but didn't interfere.”
Beckham said some parents and coaches only think about getting scholarships for their kids.
“I just think that everyone's career ends sometime and most of them end at high school,” Beckham said. “So we tell them to just have a good time.”
“You only see your kids play (high school sports) for four years, so you might as well enjoy it,” he said.
Not only did the parents and coaches of the Magic team have the pleasure of watching the championship run, many aunts, uncles and grandparents enjoyed the ride.
Such a large following sometimes created amusing problems for the team. For example, Beckham once had to make a restaurant reservation for 55 people.
The team's longest trips were to Las Vegas and Ottawa, Canada. Aside from playing softball, they saw shows and famous landmarks. They also watched plays and visited casinos.
But they also found time to win 88 percent of the games they played. Four of the Magic's nine losses came against teams with mostly 18-year-old players. The team was first or runner up in seven of nine tournaments.
“This year things fell into place,” Beckham said. “We had excellent pitching. Defense was also our strong point. Our hitting, truthfully, was average.”
In all, the Magic won three tournaments. The local girls won a tournament in Columbus and also beat out 20 teams to win the USSSA Ohio State title. That victory qualified the team for the World Series.
The Magic went 8-1 at the World Series, losing once in pool play to a team from Colorado.
The team then did not lose in the double elimination tournament. It beat teams from Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota.
The Magic outscored their opponents 15-1 in the first three rounds of the tournament, including two shutouts.
The team squeaked into the finals of the winner's bracket with a 6-5 win.
The Magic then defeated a team called the Oakdale Wild Things 6-1 to take the World Series title.
The team's top two pitchers were Amy Mattin (Delta High School) and Aimee Genter (Pettisville High School).
“Mattin was extremely good,” Beckham said. “Genter was a shy girl who really came out of her shell.”
Both pitchers had an earned run average under 1.00.
“Mattin is a little faster and Genter has more stuff. Genter moves it up and down. Mattin is in and out,” Beckham said.
He said both are strong hurlers who mostly pitched complete games.
“They both could get into a groove,” he said.
“If you watch fastpitch softball, it's all about the pitching - even more so than in baseball,” Beckham said. “And the other thing that goes with pitching is the catcher.”
Perrysburg High School's Brecken Libbe did an outstanding job at backstop for the Magic. Even though she is just 16, the coaching staff allowed her to call the pitches.
“She was good enough to call 'em,” Beckham said.
“She can call them better than I can. She also was the quarterback of the defense. She picked off a lot of runners.”
Libbe was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
Four teammates joined Libbe on the All-World Series team. Allison Vallas (Perrysburg), Britt Sevey (Archbold), Amanda Kern (Bowling Green), and Amanda Coressel (Patrick Henry) earned those high honors.
Vallas, who hit either in the third or fourth spot in the batting order, paced the offense.
“Boy could she hit that ball,” Beckham said. “She always seemed to hit it hard. She even poked a few over the fence.”
Defensively, Beckham singled out second baseman Cameron Rehard (Perrysburg) and Kern at shortstop for their solid play up the middle.
Kern is only going to be a sophomore at Bowling Green.
“She is as smooth as any shortstop I've seen,” Beckham said. “She's very natural and just real smooth.”
Stephanie Brader (Northivew), Allison Teopas (Northview), Traci Meyers (Northview) and Kim Vogtsberger (Anthony Wayne) also contributed significantly to the championship season, according to Beckham.
He said his team used some unusual motivational techniques to keep winning.
He said getting the opportunity to sleep the next day was a key to one victory.
“We won another game with the thought that we wouldn't have to play another game that night if we won,” Beckham said.
“Then we looked and said, `Oh my gosh there's only eight teams left.'”
“We were fortunate,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, we never would have thought we would win nationals.”
The U16 Magic weren't the only team in the Suburban Girls Softball organization that had success this summer.
The SGS 12-and-under and 18-and-over Magic teams all won state titles this year.
The SGS was founded 15 years ago with six teams. There are now over 160 teams and 2,000 players who compete in SGS. Players range in age from 10 to 18.
The best players from the league are selected to play weekend games for the SGS Magic teams.
Those teams play on the weekends in the months of June and July.