Frank Brown did a little research and found that the Warwick West Side softball program has won 34 district championships since 1990. Brown, the manager of the 9/10-year-old all-stars, shared that info with his team – and he made note of one important fact.
Not one of those 34 banners came from a 9/10-year-old team.
The West Side stars finished their impressive march through the District 3 tournament with a 15-5 victory over Westerly National in last Wednesday’s championship game. The win gives West Side its first 9/10 title and qualifies the team for the state tournament, which begins Saturday in Woonsocket.
“One of the things we talked a lot about is West Side pride,” Brown said. “Thirty-four flags since 1990, and we wanted to be a part of that.”
It wasn’t an easy task, but West Side had no trouble with it. The stars rolled past East Greenwich 15-5 in their district tourney opener and beat Westerly 14-7 for a spot in the championship.
Westerly came back out of the losers’ bracket but was no match for West Side on Wednesday.
Karly Evans had a two-run single for West Side in the first, and the lead only grew. West Side put up seven runs in the fourth and rolled to the 15-5 mercy-rule win.
“The key was we knew our bats would come around,” Brown said. “Sometimes, with 9 and 10-year-old girls, you’ve got to get the nerves out of the way. Once we did that, we knew we were going to hit.”
Olivia King has been leading the offensive charge throughout the tournament, but she’s not the only one with a big bat. Up and down the lineup, West Side has been swinging.
“I really can’t even pick out a couple of stars,” Brown said. “Everybody has been contributing. Overall, we like to hit, we like to bunt and everybody runs the bases well.”
On Wednesday, West Side didn’t even need that much offense. Starting pitcher Katrina Kazen was in control and struck out 14 to pick up the victory.
“She pitched very well,” Brown said.
It’s been a whirlwind journey for the West Side stars. They didn’t start practice until June 17, and the district tournament began on June 25.
But the team jelled quickly, and the results show it.
“I’m very pleased with the team,” Brown said. “We only had eight days to pull a team together but they’ve been working hard. They caught on quick and they really gathered themselves together.”
A consistent approach has helped the cause. Before games, the team doesn’t take infield; instead, players take the field and dance the Cotton Eyed Joe. That’s part of an effort to stay relaxed. Add in preparation, focus and execution, and West Side has a good recipe going.
“We’ve done it all so far,” Brown said.
And they’ve done it with dedication.
Going into Wednesday, the team had taken just one day off since the start of practice. After the win, they finally got a few more.
“We gave them a couple of days, but we’re back at it,” Brown said. “We’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we’ll stay hot.”
West Side opens play in the four-team state tournament on Saturday at 1 p .m. at Menard Field in Woonsocket. West Side will play the District 1 champion.