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Teams that lose two-thirds of their regular season games aren't good bets to win postseason championships. But as the man says, "that's why they play the games."

The Hawks were only 7-13-1 in their Westminster Jaycees Girls Softball League Junior Division regular season. But if you had put a bunch of money on them the evening of June 7, just before the start of their first postseason tournament game, you might have won yourself an all-expenses-paid vacation in Bermuda.

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The team demolished all the odds and also the memories of a forgettable regular season by sweeping all four of its tournament games at Westminster's Jaycees Park to win the championship.

Coach Paul Allen came close to winning the 8-12 division title last year. His team made it to the tourney championship game before getting knocked out. But five of those players, including his pitcher and a couple of his best hitters, graduated from high school and moved on. So he had to get five new ones for this year's slow-pitch campaign.

He lost five players. But looking at it another way, he had nine players back plus some promising prospects. And as spring practice progressed, Allen could see the old and new were adding up to something. And he realized that if things fell right, they might add up to a whole lot.

"I knew there would be a lot of rebuilding. But if we stuck together as a team, by the time the year ended, we would be good," he said.

In the early games, the team's coaches moved their girls around. They looked to fit the pieces together and find where each player belonged.

They solved their pitching issues by putting eighth-grader Olivia Zellers and senior Kelly Smith on the mound. Smith would pitch all four tournament games. Zellers pitched well during the regular season. But come tournament time, she would move to the outfield and do a good job there.

Chrissy Smith played short and also the outfield in outstanding fashion. Marley Watson played an outstanding third base. Alina Cromer became a key part of the team by virtue of her ability to play almost anywhere on the field and do it well.

Lead-off hitter Katie Allen led the team with a .800 batting average this season. She would make only one out in the tournament.

Allen credits his assistant coaches for much of the success in putting together this winning team.

Three girls who played last year came back to help out. Two of those girls returned after their college year was over. They were Kelsey Allen and Casey Capece.

Former player Olivia Thomas came back along with her father Ron to provide coaching help.

In addition to help from their coaches, the girls put in a lot of effort on their own which helped them get better. But despite these efforts by the girls and their willing mentors, they struggled all year. Their record put them fourth in the five-team division. They gave up a league-high 270 runs, although they did manage to score 180.

However Allen wasn't overly discouraged at the discouraging statistics. He could see his kids had improved a lot by postseason time.

"We had needed time to mesh as a team. They all knew their roles at the end of the year and what they had to do," Allen said. "I felt good coming into the tournament. I told the girls we would win it because I could see the change."

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But while Allen says he could see their improvement and was confident the girls would do well, he also wanted to instill that confidence in them. To do that, he had to show them what they needed to do in order to justify his confident outlook.

"Before the tournament started, we had a little talk," Allen said. "We discussed what each player had to do to to change things."

That heart-to-heart paid off.

"We played smart softball, we didn't make errors, and the hitting just took off. The pitching was solid; Kelly pitched a very good tournament," he said.

Zellers, who had also pitched well during the regular season, was moved to left field for the tournament. There, she made some outstanding catches. She also hit well out of the second slot in the order.

The Hawks led all the way to win their opening game, 18-11 over the Flyers.

"After that first game, you could see that the kids believed in themselves," Allen recalled.

Two days later, they faced the top-seeded Aces. The Aces had the best record in the Jaycees program during the regular season (19-2-1). That tie was against the Hawks, but they'd beaten them several other times without a loss.

This time, though, the Hawks went ahead early and never trailed. They hung on to win 13-11.

On June 11, they faced the Marlins (11-11), who were sort of an underdog in their own right. However the Marlins won their first tournament game to face the Hawks in the winners' bracket final. But they were no match for Allen's team, which handled them 18-9.

By that afternoon, the Marlins battled their way out of the consolation bracket to face the Hawks again. But in that one the Hawks won by an even larger margin, 20-3.

They were tournament champs, and they never trailed once in their four tournament games.

Allen looked back over the year. While the regular season was not a happy one, he considered it a means to an end.

"The season was all about putting the pieces together by the end of the year," Allen said.

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