If you examine the roll of this year’s top USSSA Class C youth fastpitch softball teams, the Winfield Sting 18-under girls prominently appear. This season, Jim Finneran’s Sting knocked heads with the best teams in its class, and came home with trophies.
The Sting played one of the roughest schedules around. Yet, the local girls still went 21-11, a .656 winning percentage. And they managed a 10-game winning streak at one point.
When they lost, it was to the best. The teams that beat them had a 119-55 record and a .684 percentage. The next closest team’s losses came to opponents with a winning percentage of .594, Finneran said.
As per the USSSA, the Sting was fourth in the state in power ranking. This is a calculation based on a team’s winning percentage, the winning percentages of the teams it plays, and other factors.
The Sting batted .367, and had an on-base average of .427.
In July, the girls finished third in the USSSA Class C National Championships in Sterling, Va.
All in all, that is an impressive list of accomplishments.
The core of this Sting team has been around since it played 10-under ball, and its good moments have been consistently strung out over the years. Winfield has won at least one tournament in every age class in which it’s played. Overall, it has won four tournaments and finished second in six more.
Finneran began with 14 players this season, but two left for other commitments. He thus had to make it with 12, plus an occasional guest player substitute. That numbers game would haunt him as time went on.
However, the Sting nevertheless took home its share of trophies this season.
They opened by finishing third in late May at the Wins for Warriors tournament in Laurel. About a month later, the Sting made it to the finals of the Summer Clash, also held in Laurel.
In fact, they led Hickory Hornets-Black 4-2 entering the final inning. But the Hornets, No. 1 in the country at the time in USSSA rankings, scored five times to win 7-4. Yet they could have won, and Finneran looked beyond that unfortunate loss to a bright future the rest of the year.
“We were better than we’d hoped for that early in the season," he said. "And after that, we felt we could play with anybody in the country.”
In mid-July, they won all six games to win the Flamethrower tournament in Ellicott City. To win, they had to come from behind in the final game.
The Sting, who trailed 5-2 after five innings, scored one run in the sixth and then won it with as three-run seventh inning rally.
The following weekend they journeyed to the nationals. Things started out well.
After Forest Hill Black jumped to a 2-0 first inning lead in the opening tournament game, Sting scored six runs in the home half and cruised to an 11-4 win over the Harford County squad.
Game 2 was another easy one, a 10-3 win over Inferno Red from Ashburn, Va.
Game 3 was against the Aurora Raiders from Illinois. This one was a lot tougher.
After Winfield scored a run in the fifth to tie the game 5-5, Aurora went up 6-5 in the sixth and last inning. But the local girls scored two in the bottom of the sixth to win 7-6.
Their winning streak went to four in their next game, a 7-2 win over the Keystone State Bombers. That left Winfield as one of two unbeaten teams in the tournament winners’ bracket. But now they faced the River City Rippers, the other unbeaten team, and things didn’t work out so well.
The Hagerstown-based team led 10-2 lead before Winfield made the final score a little more respectable at 10-6 by scoring four runs in the final inning.
The games were now six innings instead of seven because the heat index had climbed to 110 degrees. And that heat was hurting the Sting as they entered the semifinal game against Forest Black. The girls were losing 5-3 in the fourth inning when things caught up with them.
Finneran said two of his 12 players began hyperventilating due to the heat and had to leave the game. Then an outfielder broke her hand making a diving catch. At that point, Finneran was suddenly down to nine players, and he had to make some fast decisions.
“I literally got them out in the middle of the field and decided where they could play," he said. “Some girls had to play a position they’d never played before.”
Unfortunately for the Sting, Forest Hill was now a different team than the one that had fallen in the opening game. It went on a rampage with the bats and hammered the Carroll kids 13-6, knocking them out of the tournament.
“They hit everything. This was their day, and they came out on fire,” Finneran said.
However, his team had gone unbeaten coming in to the semis, and for that reason, it was awarded third place in the tournament.
“Everybody was sad right away," Finneran said. “But we told them, ‘It was their day. That’s all. You didn’t make a bunch of errors.’”
The latter was significant because the team had been shifted around and girls were out of position. And Finneran and his assistant coaches would find a way to console their disappointed players.
“But once we told them they were going to get trophies, they were happy,” he said.
Finneran has already talked with his players about next year; they want to do better.
“We want to average at least six runs a game and give up five or fewer," he said. “We want to win two tournaments.”
Latest Carroll County Sports
Maybe one of those two wins might be for the national championship.