On a crisp and chilly Saturday morning at Peaks View Park in Lynchburg, Virginia, Special Olympics softball teams from across the United States and Canada joined together for the 2023 Special Olympics North America Softball Championship. Teams, both traditional and Unified, started in a round-robin format.
A Unified game between the teams from Special Olympics Maryland and Special Olympics Oklahoma started things off on Field Two. Competitive early, both teams got a few hits and both teams were scoring. Michael Wolfe, a coach for the Oklahoma Fighting Peacocks, was enthusiastic about how the team started. Having won all their games on Friday, they got things going fast.
“We wanted to keep getting good hits, keep getting good fielding and just show our love and our kindness to other teams and keep them as our family,” Wolfe says.
The Fighting Peacocks won 16-2.
But he knows there is much softball left to be played. With the end goal of winning a gold medal in mind, he says, “What we are going to build on is our mistakes; we are going to clean those up and keep our bats going and keep our defense going. As coaches, we want to keep them in line and keep them going.”
With it being such an early first pitch, the Maryland Frederick County Heat was still fighting to wake up. Shaffer knew once they got a game in, they would be ready to rock ’n’ roll with the hopes of seeing the Fighting Peacocks once more.
“We just wanted to try and hang with them,” Megan Shaffer, head coach for the Heat, says. “They are a great team and we’re a great team too. They hit well and it is really early for us but we’re definitely going to get them tomorrow.”
Over on Field One in the best traditional softball game of the weekend, Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Dairyland Elite faced Special Olympics Maryland’s team from Montgomery County. Athletes from both teams were making plays all over the field. But nobody made a statement quite like Dairyland’s Lance King. With back-to-back home runs and a single, his play stuck out.
“Lance is an extremely hard worker, and he is so amazing on the softball field because he’s always trying his best and he’s on and off the field working hard to do his best,” Chad Oeftger, the head coach of Dairyland, says. “To have him have the experience he had today hitting some home runs makes us all so happy for him. He deserves all the recognition.”
“The first [game] was a tough one where we lost 6-4 so I teach our guys to always keep their heads up, make sure you’re always bringing everybody up,” Oeftger says about the earlier games. “If somebody has a bad out, keep your head up and always encourage them. I think we will see that team again tomorrow and hopefully; we will be able to reverse the score on them.”
And while the gold medal matches are Sunday, Special Olympics Pennsylvania Three-Rivers, the Special Olympics North Carolina Cleveland Mustangs, and Special Olympics Maryland Montgomery County all earned bronze and will receive their awards Sunday morning.