In a year filled with wins, the Cary Crush 14U girls fastpitch team added another tournament championship with a win Sunday at the Fields of Dreams in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
In the title game, the Crush defeated the Mount Prospect Power, 10-4. This year the Crush have won three tournaments and had a second place and two third-place finishes. The Crush are ranked No. 2 in the USSSA 14U A Division in Region 3 (Illinois, Inidiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio) and may gain the top spot with Sunday’s championship.
They will play in the North American Fastpitch Association national tournament in Eden Prairie, Minn. beginning July 25.
The team prides itself on being fundamentally sound and that includes offensively. At the Memorial Day Northern Ice USSSA National Invitational Tournament in Waukegan, the Crush not only won but dominated. In their eight games, they outscored their opponents 74-15 and knocked out seven home runs, including a grand slam.
“Up and down the lineup there’s not a weak player,” Crush manager Jim Rathe said. “It’s really fun to coach.”
Even in the team’s losses there is an emphasis on quality of play more than the end result.
“You don’t look forward to a loss ever, but it’s not about the score it’s how you play the game,” Rathe said. “There’s a difference between losing and getting beat. If you lose, you beat yourself.”
Rathe said the strengths of the team are fundamentals and having every player be able to play multiple positions. Those fundamentals and versatility were developed at the team’s 10,000 square foot indoor practice facility in Cary that they share with the Cary Trojans travel baseball program.
“It gives us an opportunity regardless of weather and time of year to spend time working on fundamentals,” Rathe said. “If their solid in fundamentals, a whole lot of things go well.”
Another aspect of the team’s success is communication. The majority of the team has been playing together since they were 9 years old.
“It’s probably one of the more quiet teams. They communicate when they need to communicate,” Rathe said. “They really work together to keep each other up.”
Rathe coaches the team along with Brian Isola and Mike Chmiel. Each of the three bring different but important aspects to the team.
Rathe grew up in the sport with a father who pitched fastpitch. He gave up baseball after his sophomore year to concentrate on playing softball. Isola played baseball at SIU in Carbondale and continues play in over-40 leagues. Chmiel is a longtime coach and the statistics and sabermetrics expert.
“It’s a huge asset to have a three-legged coaching staff,” Rathe said. “We can share some of those experiences we’ve had in different situations. They not only hear it but they see it.”
The best part of coaching the Crush, Rathe said, is that the families don’t have any tension or cattiness that is present in a lot of teams.
“The group of families get along well. There’s not any me first attitudes,” Rathe said.
Cary Crush players are Taylor Rathe, Kaila Stuart, Hayley Redmann, Amanda Guercio, Kristi Isola, Colleen Lowe, Jacqueline Chmiel, Kate Newton, Rachael Kundrot, Brianne Prank and Lydia Gabriel.
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.