The 16U Shockwave softball team poses with its second-place trophy at the USSSA C-Class National Championship in Gulf Shores last week.
Bottom row, left to right: Hannah Adams, McKenzie Chappell, Dalyn Phillips, Sidney English, Madison Westmoreland, Abby Duke
Second row, left to right: Lexi Kimbrell, Alexa Evans, Taylor Simmons, Elizabeth Quick, Olivia Hudson, Dani Holt, Savannah Sibley, Mallory Adams
Third row, left to right: Coach Doug Duke, Coach Richard Cox, Coach Chris Westmoreland
Photo courtesy of Bryant Hudson
CULLMAN – Last week was a busy one in Gulf Shores for Cullman’s 16U Shockwave softball team as it played its way all the way into the final round of the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) C-Class National Championship, coming up just short of the title, 7-6, in the final inning. The second-place finish brought the Shockwave’s season record to 18-10 overall and 17-5 in C-Class. The team won the USSSA National Champions Sportsmanship Award.
Shockwave Head Coach Chris Westmoreland has seen his team develop together over several seasons and credits that team chemistry for the successful season. It was important for the players and Westmoreland to keep the team together, so a large portion of the team was actually playing up one age group, but that didn’t stop them from finishing second in the state.
“This is our fourth year being together. The majority of the team has been together for four seasons, so we have a nucleus of about eight or nine girls that have been there, and we’ve added a few along the way, but the majority of the team has been together for at least two years. We played last year in C-Class and had a very good record, finished third in the state last year in 14U. Some of our girls aged up so we just went ahead and moved the whole team up,” Westmoreland said. “Almost half the team could’ve played 14U this year, but we went ahead and moved up to keep the team together. We were successful last year so we knew that we would be able to compete this year. We had never made it to the beach. We’d never been to the national championships, so we decided last year after finishing third that we were going to go this year.”
That team chemistry was a big part of what made the Shockwave successful this season and that camaraderie made the team very strong on the defensive end. That defensive prowess carried the girls all the way to the championship game in Gulf Shores, despite having a slow week offensively.
“We are very defensively sound. We commit very few errors, and along with pitching that’s one thing we do extremely well is defense. We have struggled hitting all year long to be honest,” Westmoreland said. “Even this past week we played seven games and left 28 people on base. Every game that we won down there was a one-run game, but each game we had four to seven girls left on base, and in one game I think we had nine left on base. So, our defense and pitching were stellar; we just struggled hitting the ball and getting people across the plate.”
Westmoreland has a clearly defined set of priorities that he uses in coaching and he believes that coaching style allows his teams to have more fun than most of the teams they play against throughout the season.
“We work off of three principles, and we’ve done this since I’ve been coaching. The number one principle is ‘We’re here to get better.’ Number two is ‘We’re here to have fun,’ and number three is ‘We’re here to win.’ If you look at us when we got together four years ago to how we look now, we obviously have gotten better. One thing that is different about us compared to other teams is we’re having fun. That is the main issue with us. We’re dancing to music, we’re dancing with other teams, dancing between innings when teams are warming up and just having fun.”
Winning on the diamond is obviously an important part of the game, but for Westmoreland, winning can mean a lot of things. He tries to instill that idea with his players so that they can take away more from their time playing together than just wins and losses.
“Then the third principle is winning, and it’s not necessarily about winning on the field. We were privileged enough to buddy up with an 8U team out of Lexington, Tennessee that ended up winning their national championship. We were kind of down and out in the last game; we were down by a couple of runs and we were about on the edge of giving up when that little 8U team jumped in the dugout with us and started yelling and screaming. It really gave us a lift and we ended up tying the game in our last inning and couldn’t hold the lead in the last inning, but for us it’s more than just a game,” Westmoreland said. “We’re trying to teach life lessons; we volunteer some at the nursing home to play games with the residents and stuff and to us it’s a family. For us, the experience of being down there and cheering on other teams from across the country and bonding with younger girls that have their whole life ahead of them and seeing them look up to our girls, to me that’s more than any championship that we could win.”
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