Blazing a trail to the World Series

Mason-Dixon Blaze are fourth-ranked U14 softball team in the nation

Mason-Dixon Blaze are fourth-ranked U14 softball team in the nation

July 25, 2009|By CONNER GILBERT/Staff Correspondent

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- When a sports team encounters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it may feel lucky. But when that opportunity is brought about through a team's own hard work and determination, there is a sense of pride.

With an impressive performance over the past several months, the Mason-Dixon Blaze 94 U14 girls softball team has catapulted itself into the USSSA World Series, which began Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

The team began its run in Williamsport, Pa., for an indoor winter tournament. Ten tournaments later, the Blaze find themselves ranked fourth out of 1,600 teams in the nation and poised to succeed on the biggest stage of all.

"This team has really come together," said manager Troy Yingling. "I've never seen more unity in a team. They've been down a lot, but they keep coming back."


The Blaze are made up of nine girls from south-central Pennsylvania and three from Washington County, but the players feel a special bond that many teams do not share.

"The girls have grown to be a family on and off the field," said infielder Taylor Rogers. "Once you have chemistry like that, you can get everyone up and always have fun."

The Blaze have certainly been having fun, compiling a 48-4 overall record. Much of their success is due to the squad's strong pitching and defense, which have helped limit opponents to just 1.95 runs scored per game.

"Sometimes we only have to get a couple runs in with small ball to win," said Yingling.

Meanwhile, the Blaze are scoring an average of 7.85 runs per game.

"We always have good pitching and defense," said pitcher and shortstop Amber Forrest. "So when everyone is on at the same time, we can be really hard to beat."

The Blaze also have the right intangibles on their side.

"We work hard and put it all out on the field," said infielder and outfielder Danielle Wissinger. "Some other teams only give half of the effort that we give."

Yingling knows that the success his players are experiencing now could also benefit them in the future.

"A lot of the girls are just now starting to talk about going to college," he said. "This helps them to become more visible to colleges going forward."

Most teams rarely experience the kind of winning that the Blaze have accomplished, and the players are grateful to be in that position.

"I played with one other team before this, and this team is no comparison to that," said pitcher and infielder Blaire Lauthers. "Most people don't get this opportunity, so I'm privileged to go to the World Series with such an awesome team."

The Herald-Mail Articles