Calhoun senior league softball surpasses goals in all-star season
Aug. 15, 2014 at 6:36 p.m.
Updated Aug. 15, 2014 at 11:41 p.m.
PORT LAVACA - Manager Tony Tidrick probably didn't set out to put together a dream team when he was gathering girls for the Calhoun Senior League All-Star team this summer.
But he did.
Tidrick admits it wasn't a season of blowout victories.
"Besides the two games in the state tournament, I think we were behind in every game we played," he said. "It doesn't do great for my blood pressure, but they never quit. It didn't matter how bad it looked or how desperate it got, they always wanted to win and always knew they could win."
The team of 13- to 16-year-old softball players went further than any Calhoun Little League All-Star team in its nearly 60-year history.
The 14-player team won the District 27 championship before winning the Section IV tournament.
Calhoun then went on to defeat North Shore and then North Houston American for the Texas East state championship.
"We had two umpires from the state tournament tell us that they were most impressed that the girls never said 'if we win'; they always said 'when we win,'" Tidrick said.
Going to the Southwest Regional tournament in Vidalia, La., the girls were able to realize goals they had made for themselves.
"We made history here, and we started off with a goal," said Loryn Hernandez, now 17, of Tivoli. "We met our goal, and we didn't at the same time. We wanted to push ourselves, and we wanted to go for it, and we did."
Calhoun faced Vidalia's team and the Texas West state champions from Brownsville at the regional tournament July 27 to 30.
Though the team never gave up and scored runs in the last inning, Calhoun fell to Brownsville, who went on to represent USA Southwest in the Senior League World Series.
"We were hoping for one more game to at least get us to the next level, but we ended so good," Hernandez said. "That's all we can take from that."
Utility player Samantha Lerma called Brownsville their toughest opponent.
"They had really good sticks, and they hit really well, and we weren't as prepared as we normally are," Lerma said. "Our bats weren't going, but we still went out there and played our best."
Five of the team's players are aging out of the Senior League and will be in Big League next year.
But Tidrick is confident that both senior and big league teams will be stronger because of it.
"(Going to the World Series) is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we may actually get two shots at," Tidrick said. "We can keep this group together and get another influx of new girls."
Dahlia "Dolly" Ortiz, 14, was one of the youngest girls on the team.
The incoming Calhoun freshman said she almost didn't play softball this summer.
She's happy she took the risk.
"When we played in Vidalia, La., I had the only home run of the tournament," Ortiz said. "In the last inning, I made a diving catch that fell right behind Kelsey's glove on the pitcher's mound. I ran a good distance for it and just went for it. We had to take risks."
The final game of the season against Brownsville was Ortiz's birthday.
"It was amazing going that far and crying about it," she said. "I said 'thank you for giving me the best birthday ever.' It was totally OK that we didn't win."
Since returning to Port Lavaca, Tidrick has already received calls from parents and grandparents to sign up their daughters for Little League.
"The biggest thing that has been encouraging for them is that this is fun; it's not do-or-die or everybody with all the drama and stress of other teams," Tidrick said. "We're going to keep them together and have been talking about is that we could take a junior, senior and big league team next year if we have a few more girls sign up."
Seeing a girl catch her first out to watching his team play together instead of text-message each other is what brings Tidrick back.
"It's not winning all the games or going to the World Series - it's the look on their faces after striking out all season and getting on base that first time," he said.