The state champion Carroll County softball team officially ended its season June 24 with its year-end banquet, one that was filled with plenty of interesting facts and touching gestures.
Head coach Rick Nester, who was recently named the VHSL Group 4-A Coach of the Year, told the players Grayson National Bank donated $1,000 to the softball team to go toward purchase of state championship rings.
“If you go by there or bank there, please thank them,” Nester said.
Nester talked about what a fine group of young ladies comprised the 2015 Carroll County softball team. Twice during the season, he said he had umpires compliment the team on their behavior following games.
“The one at Salem said he had been doing this for 27 years and he had never seen such a class group,” Nester said. “You are a group of fine young ladies.”
Nester then gave a letter that was sent to him by the home plate umpire in the state championship game to CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson to read. In the letter, the umpire talked about how professionally the team conducted itself on the softball field, how well-mannered they were, and how they were well-coached and executed the game plan to perfection.
Cindy Edwards, head coach of the Carroll County JV softball team, started by thanking the varsity for a historic season, the first state championship in a team sport in the 46-year history of CCHS.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to these girls for the ride you took me on. Awesome,” Edwards said. “I’ve waited a long time to see something like that.”
As for the JV team, Edwards talked about how they learned to play defense through the year. She said they were a positive group to be around and never had any discipline problems because they were a “fantastic bunch.” She gave the Most Improved Award to every girl on the team, recalling how it seemed like there were “a thousand balls” bouncing off the gym walls during the first practice of the season.
“She didn’t mention the JV team lost just one game,” Nester added. “They lost the first game and won every one after.”
Nester told the team that Mason Jar in Hillsville had a voucher for each player to get $10 off their next meal there. He added that the Town of Hillsville asked the softball team to be the Grand Marshal of the Fourth of July Parade.
Nester thanked the parents for their patience and many contributions to the team. He also thanked several parents who went out of their way to help the team scout opponents during the postseason.
“We had a few guys that as soon as we beat Fluvanna (in the regional semifinals), they didn’t stay to celebrate. Alvin (Davidson) and Justin (Quesenberry) took off as soon as we won to watch King George and Woodgrove,” Nester said. “Tracy Moore went to the coast to watch Deep Creek and Grafton. The more eyes we have out there, the better it is for us, and I want to thank them for their contributions. The JV coaches (Edwards and Ed Tompkins) that came up at the end of the year, it helped us with quality practice time. David (Quesenberry) and Jeff (Tobler), my assistant coaches, I want to thank them for everything they have done and given throughout the year. Steve Combs from the Hitting Barn, it makes a difference.”
Although not many people may see it, he said the team also receives a ton of support from Central Office. CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson and Superintendent Strader Blankenship were with the team all year long, Nester said.
“Last, but not least, I want to thank my wife Donna. She has to hear all the problems and she gets to hear me replay each of the games,” Nester said. “You can’t do this without the support at home, and she has supported me for 30-some years.”
The Carroll head coach then went over the team’s incredible statistics for the season. During the regular season, the Cavaliers scored 191 runs while only giving up 38. The team had a total of 306 hits and only allowed 98. During the Conference 24 Tournament, Carroll outscored opponents, 45-1. They also outscored opponents 15-2 in the Region 4-A North Tournament and 4-2 in the state tournament.
“That’s a total for the season of 255 runs to 43. That’s not bad,” Nester said.
The team’s batting average was .393, while opponents only hit .225 against Carroll. Cavalier hitters drew 265 walks, but Carroll pitchers only gave up 48 free passes. And defensively, Carroll did not make an error in any of its eight postseason games.
“That’s what it takes to do what you did,” Nester said. “And I don’t think you all realized exactly what all you accomplished – school record for most wins, first team in a varsity sport to go undefeated in the regular season, first state championship. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.”
Nester gave out letters to all the varsity players, including manager Breanna Galyean and the four JV players that came up at the end of the year – Alexis Meredith, Katie McKenzie, Elizabeth Combs and Jeannie Utt.
“You deserved a letter,” Nester said. “You helped us win.”
Nester talked about the wonderful support from the community all through the season, and especially during the team’s postseason run to the state title. On fan in particular, though, was truly special to the team, Nester said, as he presented the 10th Man Award to Lucky Woodyard.
Finally, Nester said he usually gives a Team MVP award at the banquet. But this year every single Cavalier played a huge role in the team winning the state.
“It truly was a team effort of all the girls and we couldn’t pick just one,” Nester said. “Every one of you is the MVP because each one of you has been our most valuable player.”
Chuck Thompson spoke to the team and told the girls there are enough students in 4-A to fill Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium, plus 500 more, which says something about what the team accomplished. He noted that Woodgrove, the team Carroll beat in the championship game, is 15 kids away from being a 5-A school, while Carroll has the numbers to be a 3-A school.
“But I can tell you that the numbers don’t really matter a lot and being a state champion doesn’t matter if it’s not a team of good people. And that’s what you girls are, good people, good students and good citizens,” Thompson said. “A lot has been printed and said about how many people were at the parade and the championship. Some people said it was only because it was our first time in the state championship game, but I think we would have had the same number if it was our tenth. It was something special for our county and I am very happy and excited for you girls. There are 66,720 students in 4-A, but I will take ours and play theirs any time.”
At the end of the banquet, team member Alexis Meredith’s father, Keith, presented Nester with a huge jar of pickles, a reference to the now infamous pickle play that scored the only run in the state championship game.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN