by Bridge Morris
A staple of the local sports each spring and summer, the Sullivan County Women’s Softball League (SCWSL) is back in full-swing, with games happening on most weeknights through July.
The league has two divisions, A and B, which divide teams by skill level and experience. The B-division contains a mix of teams, some remaining in the lower-level division because of their makeup of both experienced and inexperienced players, and some because they are brand new teams to the league. As for the A-division, many of the league’s veteran teams, including Charlie’s Angels and L&B Tack, find themselves playing high-level arc ball due to being well-seasoned, playing with each other year after year, and some just happen to be teams comprising very good softball players.
There are three teams in this year’s SCWSL representing the Hurleyville surrounding area, and they all sit near the top of the A and B divisions. First is The Center for Discovery, a team unlike those A-division teams mentioned above in that they haven’t been playing together for decades. Instead, The Center’s team, organized by coach by Mike Whipple, was just restarted for the 2015 season after fielding a team in the league many years ago. This new Discovery Diamonds team was originally placed in the B-division for being a new addition to the league, but after sweeping the lower level in their first season were moved up to the big leagues. Last season, their first stint in the A-division, the Discovery Diamonds took home second place in the division after a crushing defeat to longtime champions L&B Tack, but Coach Whipple expects nothing less than the league’s highest trophy this year.
What makes the Hurleyville area’s Discovery Diamonds different than the other teams in the A-division is their athleticism. They aren’t just good because of the chemistry of playing together for years. In fact, they’ve lost key players and gained new ones along the way. They are simply fast, strong, and smart at the game of softball, and it shows on the field.
Co-captains Nicole Kothe and Amanda Goddard, both employees of The Center for Discovery and three-year Discovery Diamonds players, spoke about some of their hopes for this season and offered insight on why the team has been so successful in the challenging A-division.
“Our defense is very strong, but hitting is what failed us last year,” offered Ms. Kothe, a former college softball player who leads the Diamonds’ infield as shortstop. “We have to play championship ball when it matters, and if we can do that, I think we can win it all. We deserve it.”
“I do think we have a stronger chance to win this year than last year,” said Ms. Goddard, who starts at first base for the Diamonds. “Our team is stronger, we all blend well together, and the chemistry is there. Without that, we wouldn’t be a great team.”
The co-captain did, however, speak candidly about the Diamonds’ biggest challenge this year.
“I think the toughest thing for us this season will be defeating L&B,” she said. “We have high expectations for ourselves, but they know how to take advantage of our errors.”
Diamonds pitcher Jessica VanderMeulen also spoke about the level of play in the A-division.
“In the A-division they really make sure your pitches are accurate and where they need to be as far height and positioning goes. I’m just grateful to have such a great defense behind me.”
New for this year, the SCWSL has reverted to its old policy where A-division teams play B-division teams once during the season. This has been a bone of contention for many teams, especially because so many first-year teams in the B-division have very little experience and will be forced to face A-division teams that play very high-level softball.
Ms. VanderMeulen, who has played in both divisions, provided some thoughts on this change.
“I’m afraid for our team to take it full-speed against some of these B-teams because I’d hate to see any of their players get hurt,” she said as she watched one of the league’s newest teams, Dominick’s, struggle against New Hope in a B-division game at Collins Park. “At the same time, it’s also not smart for us to play a weaker game because when we go back to our division games, we might not be as sharp.”
As she spoke, New Hope was in the process of ringing up more than three times the runs of Dominick’s, as the new team made crucial errors despite giving it their best effort.
“I am looking forward to playing New Hope in the B-division, because they’re always a fun team,” Ms. VanderMeulen finished, “But I still feel like the league didn’t make the best choice by allowing this to happen.”
Jessica’s sister, Jamie, also plays for the Discovery Diamonds, holding down third base as a key infield player. She offered some final words on her team ahead of the season.
“Our biggest strength as a team is that we pull a lot of talent from different areas to field a very strong group as a whole,” Ms. VanderMeulen said. “I’m hoping to go undefeated this year, but if we lose one or two games, that’s ok. I just want to take the championship.”
When it comes to the B-division, the two teams representing the greater Hurleyville area, Loch Sheldrake’s Bum & Kel’s and New Hope, are fortunate to be two of the more experienced teams in the B-division, which is why they have remained leaders in the division’s stats.
Brittany Delaney of defending B-division champions Bum & Kel’s shared some of her thoughts on the A-and-B-division matchups this year.
“I personally think it’s not completely fair, because some A-teams are very good and will be playing against B-teams that are just starting together,” Ms. Delaney said, on par with many players’ sentiments about the league’s decision this season. “But it is good practice to get better, and it makes you a stronger team when you play against better teams.”
The B-division is hotly contested this year, as the competition among the experienced teams is higher than ever. As the defending first place team of the B-division, Bum & Kel’s is the one everyone is trying to unseat, but the current champs welcome the friendly competition.
“Last year our biggest competition was VanKeuren’s [Landscaping], and New Hope is very good as well” Ms. Delaney said. “Those were always games you knew would be tough because our teams are equally as good as one another.
When asked about the pressure to defend their title, Ms. Delaney spoke for her team with modesty.
“We always work hard and play hard as a team, because we have some tough competition,” she said. “But even though we love to win, more importantly we love to laugh, have fun, and just enjoy the game!”
Longtime captain of New Hope, Darlene Malewit, had a similar outlook on her team’s season in the B-division.
“I’m looking forward to playing all A-teams to see if we can be competitive,” she said.
Team New Hope is one of the Sullivan County Women’s Softball League’s veteran groups, and although they didn’t get the win last season, they are always competitors to look out for in the B-division.
“Our goal is to always have fun, enjoy our team, and hopefully win as many games as we can in the process,” said Ms. Malewit.
The Sullivan County Women’s Softball League is currently in the beginning of their regular season, with games running now through July. For detailed game schedules and to support our area’s three teams, visit http://m.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=scwsl1 .