Playing for more than self

Allen Worrell/The Carroll News The Emily Beamer wristbands worn by the Carroll County softball team were on full display Saturday as they celebrated the first team state title in school history. Beamer passed away in 2009 and would have been a senior on this year’s softball team.

This one was for Emily Beamer. It was for fans such as the late Danny Nester. It was for the great coaches like Bill Worrell.

Yes, Carroll County’s softball team was representing much more than just each other when they claimed the 4-A state title on Saturday. The Lady Cavs were representing an entire county and an entire school. They were representing 46 years of past and present Carroll County athletes and coaches. These girls were representing every single person who has walked through the halls of CCHS, so starved to finally taste success on the state’s biggest stage.

“It is awesome. Our community has been awesome,” senior third baseman Hannah Dalton said. “Everything has just been great.”

Carroll second baseman Gracie Davidson said the support from the Cavalier faithful has been unreal. Not only have they packed out the softball field for home games at CCHS, Carroll fans outnumbered Fluvanna fans for a regional semifinal more than three hours away – at Fluvanna. The Cavs had nearly as many fans as Woodgrove did at home, near Washington, D.C., for the regional final. And Lynchburg? Forget about it. Carroll fans outnumbered every other 4-A team 10 to 1 easily.

“It makes it even more exciting, especially seeing how many people came out to watch us,” Davidson said. “It was crazy looking up there seeing the bleachers were pretty much full with all the support. It has been that way all year.”

And you just know there was one heck of a celebration in Heaven on Saturday. You know Big Danny Nester, Carroll’s number one fan, was up there high-fiving long-time CCHS baseball coach and legend Bill Worrell, who accomplished everything in his long and storied Hall of Fame career except win the state.

“(CCHS Principal Chuck) Thompson and I talked about Danny the other day, you know how much Danny never missed a game. And then,” Carroll County softball coach Rick Nester said before taking a long pause while looking at Worrell’s son, Galax Gazette Sports Editor Craig Worrell.

The only thing that stopped the tears was when a Roanoke Times’ reporter broke the tension by asking if Nester was a Carroll County alum. That’s when Nester, a 1979 graduate of Carroll County, talked about playing for the legendary Cavalier baseball coach.

“I played for Coach Worrell’s baseball team. My senior class was the first team to win the district in baseball and he coached. He is THE coach in Carroll County,” Nester said. “And everything I do, I simulate him. I want to coach like he did. He was a classy coach. He treated people that way. The players would do anything for him.”

Nester said this bunch of girls has made it easy to coach that way. Perhaps lost in the pure exuberance of Saturday’s state title was the fact that Carroll County also was honored with the State Sportsmanship Award at the state tournament.

“I have even mentioned things that he (Worrell) has done and taught me to these girls. And you have a class bunch of girls,” Nester said. “They come up with these ideas of representing people. It is not my idea. Lucky Woodyard, they wanted to give him a medal. It is the senior girls thinking of the people in the area. But Coach Worrell, he got to the state semifinals one time. I would have liked to have seen him win one.”

In more ways than one, Coach Worrell did win the state title Saturday. It was a play straight out of the late coach’s playbook that ended up plating the only run of the game. With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning, Nester went to Worrell’s bag of tricks and called the pickle play. Hannah Dalton got herself in a rundown between second and third base, ultimately sacrificing the third out of the inning, but not before Jeannie Utt could score from third for the pivotal run.

“Well, the style and decisions,” Nester said when asked if the play came from Worrell. “I played for him and I coached under him for years in baseball. People that played for him, they see the same thing. It’s not much difference, just a faster game.”

And then there is the matter of Emily Beamer, who played youth league softball with Carroll’s four seniors. Beamer, who passed away from cancer in 2009, would have been a member of this year’s senior class, and would have almost assuredly been on the softball team.

For most of the season, Carroll’s girls have played with a wristband with large initials E. B. with Emily Beamer’s name across them. Emily’s parents, John and Malinda Beamer, were honored with Carroll’s other four seniors on Senior Day. Beamer has been like an angel watching over the team ever since her passing, Dalton said.

“She died when we were in the sixth grade with a brain tumor and ever since then our team has been brought together by her,” Dalton said. “I think it was in the fourth or fifth grade, I actually got to play with Emily and so it’s just been great having John and Malinda, her parents, here supporting us all year and getting to wear these and her presence just being with the team.”

Finally, Nester said the championship is also for Carroll County’s amazing fans. They outnumbered Fluvanna at Fluvanna and nearly did the same thing at Woodgrove. He said the atmosphere they provided at the state tournament in Lynchburg was truly championship-worthy.

“Up here we have half this stadium or over full of our people. This means something to them,” Nester said. “This is the first time we have ever been in the state championship game. I’m glad we were able to get it (a state title) for them. It means a lot to a lot of different people.”

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN