Rec Sports Spotlight: Finksburg Lions take softball national title

The Finksburg Lady Lions recently won the USSSA Eastern Region 18U C championship.
The Finksburg Lady Lions recently won the USSSA Eastern Region 18U C championship. (Courtesy photo)

Not many softball teams will be able to go where the Finksburg Lady Lions are right now.

Of the tens of thousands of girls who played softball around the country this spring and summer, only a handful can claim that they are the best.


But the 12 kids on Bruce Coyle, Jr.’s softball team can make that claim, and proudly so.

They are USSSA Eastern Region 18U C champions. The kids are also the Maryland/Delaware 14U C champs.


The national title came when they swept seven games to win late July’s USSSA 18U C Eastern National Championship Tournament in Loudon County, Virginia.

What’s even more notable is the fact that these girls were playing 17- and 18-year-olds, and not one of them was older than 15.

In terms of power ranking, these young stars are at the top nationally, period. In a calculation which includes the quality of the teams they beat and the margin by which they won, they have the highest power ranking of the country’s 570 14-under girls softball teams.

Coyle had expected to be competitive this year. He had six players back from the 2017 team which had finished seventh in the 14U USSSA Eastern Nationals and third in the Maryland/Delaware power rankings.

However he’d lost half his team, and some key players had aged out. The Lions’ coach had to replace two pitchers, a catcher and center fielder — a very tall order.

He found top notch replacements in last fall’s team tryouts. His six new players included standouts at of all of those key positions.

Newcomer Kendall Snyder would stand out as the Lions’ number one pitcher this season, She worked in all 34 of their games. She quickly earned her nickname: “The Machine.”

She was third in batting at .470.

Camryn Cropper played mostly third base and spelled Snyder on the mound. She and catcher Maddie Brooks both batted .500, tops on the team. Brooks was also outstanding behind the plate.

Madi Geidel was the backup catcher. In fact, the youngster played just about everywhere on the field at one time or another this season and was extremely valuable in a utility role.

Taylor Coyle was the shortstop, and Erica Baker the center fielder.

Caitlin Boder began the year at second base but missed the rest of the year after breaking her foot early in the season.


“But she still came out in the games and supported the team even though she was on crutches,” Coyle said.

Gracie Gschiedle took over for her at second and, with Coyle, formed an outstanding middle infield tandem.

Megan Beck played left field and Zoe Schultz right. Emily Riesner was on first. Sydney Dryden played all three outfield positions.

In early June, they swept three games to win the Queen of Diamonds tournament. The squad finished second in June’s Ace of Diamonds tournament despite going 3-0 because another 3-0 team had a higher run differential.

They were third and fifth in their other two regular-season tournament outings.

But the year-end championships then arrived, and the Lions really began to roll. They swept their six games at the USSSA Maryland/Delaware 14U C championship tournament in late June.

Needless to say, the Lady Lions were flying high when the USSSA nationals rolled around on July 25.

However, that would work against them. The USSSA powers-that-be had a little surprise for Coyle’s troops as the tourney started.

“We got moved up to under-18 C because we were 18-1 in our (age) division,” Coyle said. “There were also five 18-under teams in the (Eastern Region) tournament.”

One might not expect a bunch of 14-year-olds to successfully compete against opponents of that age. But these aren’t ordinary kids. They weren’t just talented.

Coyle and his assistants, Jayson Cropper, Matt Gscheidel, Dan Dryden, and Steve Brooks, worked hard to develop their talents. And the kids worked themselves hard to develop it on their own.

So, when the time came to travel to Virginia, they were ready.

They won their first six games at the nationals. Finally, they faced the Southern Maryland-based Riverside Rippers, needing only to beat them to take the national tournament title. Things didn’t start well — the Rippers led 3-0 in the sixth.

“The kids were nervous, but I told them to relax,” Coyle said. “I said (Riverside) had to beat us twice to win, and we were only three runs down. I said that all they had to do was put the bat on the ball and make it happen.”

They still hadn’t done it with two gone in the seventh inning. One might say that it was getting late.

Coyle doubled home two runs and scored to tie the game when Gchiedle beat out an infield hit. She took second on the play at home.

“Then Camryn singled her home, there was pandemonium and everybody was hugging everybody else,” Coyle said. “The other team just stood there; they couldn’t believe it. They were already planning for the next game.”

Snyder was named the tournament’s most valuable pitcher, and Cropper earned MVP honors. The youngster batted .500 (10-for-20) in the tournament with seven doubles. She scored eight runs and plated 10.

The season’s over now, but things are still happening.

First of all, the team has been notified that the field will be tougher next year.

USSSA has moved the Lady Lions up to 16U B. And the organization has already told told Coyle that his team will be entered in the 16U Class A field — the most competitive — in next year’s eastern regional tournament, which will be held in Salisbury.

None of that bothers Coyle.

All of his girls are eligible to come back, and he has a host of requests from other players for tryouts.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I would put my team up against any other team, anytime, anywhere.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun