Just when things appeared darkest Saturday for the Taegu American Warriors in their bid to make school girls softball team history, Brittani Ferguson and Olivia Buford breathed new life into the team’s first DODDS-Korea league title bid with two big swings of their bats.
Buford singled to score two runners. Two more runs came in on bases-loaded walks. Then Ferguson capped Taegu’s nine-run fifth inning with a grand slam home run. It rallied the Warriors from a 4-1 deficit to a 10-4 five-inning victory over Seoul American at Yongsan Garrison’s Lombardo Field FourPlex.
The victory, the Warriors’ 10th this season, gave them just enough of a cushion to clinch the league championship — the first won by a team other than Seoul American in the three-year history of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea-sponsored softball.
“Awesome,” said Warriors head coach Tim McDaniel. “The kids really deserved this.”
The Warriors entered Saturday’s play at 9-3 and needed just one victory in their three games to seal the title. Seoul American and Pusan American, the only teams that could catch Taegu, each would have had to win all three games while Taegu lost all three. With its victory, Taegu dashed that hope quickly.
It also was the third major title of the school year for a Taegu American program that won Far East Class A tournament titles in volleyball in November and basketball in February. The common denominator: Senior veterans Kelli Cox, Tank Hancock and Lynnette Grant were part of all three teams.
Knowing he had that senior core, McDaniel “knew we had a chance” to capture the softball crown. “That was our No. 1 goal, to win the league,” he said.
It was just a matter of time, said Seoul American coach Julian Harden, before his Falcons got knocked off their title perch. “They always had the talent,” Harden said of the Warriors, but during this season “they started playing like they believed in themselves, they saw that Seoul American wasn’t invincible.”
Seoul American falters in KAIAC soccer finalsSeoul American’s boys and girls soccer teams also each lost championship matches of the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I tournaments Saturday, each to KAIAC regular-season champion Seoul Foreign.
Eddy Kim had the lone goal in the first half as the Crusaders edged the Falcons 1-0 in the boys final at Yongsan Garrison. In the girls final at Seoul Foreign, the Crusaders’ Julienne Lauler, Jillian Ward and Ariel Rhoda scored shootout goals, more than enough to offset Nykol Cabrera’s lone goal for Seoul American.
“It was a great game. I can’t complain,” said Falcons girls coach Lori Cannon. “The girls played out of their minds, on both sides.”
“I’m not happy to lose,” said boys coach Steve Boyd, “but when the kids play that hard and that well, that’s good enough for me. I’d have loved to have been a spectator.”
The two finals showcased Seoul Foreign’s skill against Seoul American’s athleticism. Though the Crusaders swept both the boys’ and girls’ regular-season series with the Falcons, each match they played went right to the wire.
“They always play hard and physical, always athletic. It’s hard to match up with,” said Seoul Foreign coach Joon Myong.
“They’re skillful. Their technique is flawless,” Cannon said.