Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speech from Coach Butch Woner
Were we a team of faith…Did we finally play up to our potential…Or were we a team that capitalized on the moment…What ever we were the trophy you see here is the only trophy we won all year… let me tell you how the Heartland did the Hustle…
As 12 year olds we were 7th at the ASA Nationals in Salem, OR (There were 5 So. California teams and 1 Ohio team that finished in front of us) – At 14 we had a 81-5 record – As first year 16’s we almost won the ASA State tournament
We were to be even more dominant in 1994…but faith was not on our side
In the fall of 1993 Melinda Andrews ended up in a hospital in Des Moines for over a year, she was bulimics and anorexic. She would have been one of the all time greats in this area as a pitcher if she remained healthy. She never played softball again. Sara DeLaere suffered a need injury the second week of our season. Sara was a D-1 pitcher at Eastern IL
Now that my top two pitchers are down I counted on Stacy Reeder a back up pitcher at Moline and Kelly Woner who played JV at Moline. Kelly was count on to play outfield for us that season and not pitch.
Our darkest hour happened on Sunday when we were beaten by the Mercy Rule at the Shoot-out. We also lost Stacy Reeder after she pitched that game to NTRA.
Left with one pitcher to pitch the next two weekends and the ASA State coming up. We did play the following weekend and played up at the 18U tournament and still managed to play .500 ball. Kelly did all the pitching.
We canceled the next weekend when we were scheduled to go to Grand Rapids, MI. Instead we practice and learned a couple of plays that would help us the rest of our season.
The ASA brackets came out a week before the tournament. If we win our first game we were to meet NTRA. We had to win that game and more to advance to the Regional tournament the following week. There were over 40 teams in the ASA State and we had to be in the top 6. Stacy came back and pitched two days before the state in league play so we had hope.
We won our first game and now we have the must game to win against NTRA. We got out of the first inning using the plays we worked on in practice. With Kelly pitching and Nikki Gorge suicide squeeze in the 4th inning we held on for a 1-0 win. I talked to the NTRA coach later and he told me that was the perfect pitcher to throw against them.
We survived by finishing 5th in the state and advance in the Regional tournament in Greenville, IN. We picked up two of NTRA’s players in Kari David, their pitcher, and Kim Suffield their best hitter. With those two players we were back to what we had at the start of the season. Kari replaced Sara on the mound and Kim replace Sara as our clean up hitter.
We had to finish 3rd place or better in the regional to advance to the nationals and we finished 4th. Since the Nationals were being held first time in Normal, IL we would be the first team in if another team cancelled. We learned that the Hawaii team elected not to come and we took their place.
Now with new life and playing a more aggressive style on to Normal. We won our first game at nationals against the Scrappers from KS when we broke the tie with a suicide squeeze in the top of the 7th for a 2-1 win.
We won the second game against the Panthers from Pasadena, TX 4-2 when we broke the tie in the top of the 6th with 2 out double steal when both runners scored from 1st and 2nd base on the over throw. We won the third game against the Lady Orioles with a two out hit and run in the top of the 7th. Kim Suffield hit the double with Amber Gay scoring from 1st base. We won the next game against the Hardliners from Houston, TX when we scored 7 runs in the top of the first, I remember 5 of those runs being scored by the squeeze bunt.
Coming to the ball park Sunday and seeing your team name in the final 4 with three Southern CA. teams was something you could only dream about. We lost to the Stealth from Encino, CA 2-0 and we did have a chance early on in that game and moved to the losers bracket. We did beat one So. CA team 1-0 when we beat the Cruisers from Irvine, CA.
Our season came to an end the next game against the Lightning from San Diego, CA.
How proud we all were of our finish at the nationals. With our the help of Kari David and Kim Suffield from NTRA this would not have happened. Our players welcomed Kari and Kim and I think they knew how important it was to have them with our team. Everyone played to their best ability that week and that’s all you can ask of any team.
It was rumored how easy it was for us to get to as far as we did it must of been a cake walk. I only go to point out that of the 7 games that we played in the nationals 6 of those teams finished in the top 10.
This team was going to be nominated to the Illinois ASA Hall of fame by the state youth director Moreland Fink, however he died that fall before the committie was to meet. I want to thank John Nelson and the Hearthland organization for this long over due honor. Now lets meet the players and coaches that made this posible.
Not able to attend:
and Rich DeLaere who passed away a few years ago.