By Tim HippsSeptember 28, 2010
NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. (Army News Service, Sept. 28, 2010) -- The undefeated All-Army women won eight games and put six players on the all-tournament team at the 2010 Armed Forces Softball Championships, Sept. 19-23.
Sgt. Windy Klein of Fort Hood, Texas, pitched and batted a tournament-high .545 to lead All-Army (8-0) against All-Air Force (3-5) and All-Navy (1-7).
Klein was joined on the all-tournament squad by teammates Spc. Ashley Caswell of Fort Bragg, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Shaqina Smith of Camp Casey, Korea; Sgt. April McGarity of Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Spc. Jenna Martin of Fort Hood, Texas; and Capt. Lindsey Gerheim of Fort Campbell, Ky.
The young All-Army women's team, with an average age of 24, won with solid defense and timely hitting. They opened Sunday with a 5-0 victory over Air Force and a 14-0 shutout of Navy, followed by a 3-1 win over Air Force and a 6-1 conquest of Navy on Monday. They only allowed two runs in their first four games -- in slow-pitch softball.
"Our shortstop, Jenna Martin, was just huge going in the hole and making double plays, backhanding balls, and throwing runners out by two and three steps," said All-Army women's manager Sgt. 1st Class Rob Bailey III. "And our pitcher, Windy Klein, listens real well and makes adjustments. We just play good defense and put enough runs across."
By noon Tuesday, All-Army had secured the gold medal with a 7-3 victory over three-time defending champion All-Air Force. Klein shook off a bruised ankle, earned her fifth victory on the mound, and delivered two run-scoring hits.
The score was tied 3-3 in the sixth when Smith and pinch-hitters Nichole Flory of Fort Jackson, S.C., and Tammy White-McKnight of Fort Meade, Md., delivered consecutive hits.
Caswell, 20, a converted shortstop who has played only eight months of slow-pitch softball, anchored the All-Army infield at first base.
"Her glove is lights out," Bailey said, "and she soaks everything up like a sponge. She listens and takes everything in, and keeps getting better and better."
Caswell did not realize she had helped secure the gold medal until coaches let her know.
"Now we have another goal: to go 8-0," she said. "I think we'll hit better now that the pressure is off. It feels pretty good, I guess, to win the gold. Everybody gets to celebrate."
McGarity, 29, a diet tech at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, patrolled left field.
"Our defense is very tight," she said. "Even if there's a dropped ball or an overthrow, we back each other up and we keep each other up. We're just taking care of business."
Bailey, the Army's 2005 Coach of the Year stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was assisted by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Jackson of Fort Meade.
"You look at our lineup, and 10 of the 15 have been deployed," Bailey said. "They know what it takes. They're resilient."
White-McKnight, 40, who reported directly to generals during two deployments in Korea, spent a decade trying to get to the All-Army softball tryout camp.
"My job came first," she explained. "I've had some jobs where I was in key leadership positions, and I get paid to be a master sergeant, not to be a softball player."
White-McKnight tipped her cap to CW3 Roberta Cortez for signing off on her All-Army packet before leaving Fort Meade for Fort Hood.
"To actually get to camp was a great experience," McKnight said. "Once I got there and saw how young the girls were, the pressure was on to compete at their level."
White-McKnight, who teammates called 'Grandma' or 'Momma,' was the first rookie to be named co-captain of the All-Army women's squad. She played in five games and had the second-highest batting average (.500) on the team.
"Now, when I hang my cleats up, I don't have to go 'would've, could've, should've,'" said White-McKnight, an assistant coach for the women's post-level team at Fort Meade. "I don't have to look back and say 'what if'' It's been a great experience to compete with these youngsters and realize that I've still got something to contribute."
Two more All-Army players -- Pfc. Trina McGee of Camp Henry, Korea, and Sgt. Shannika Taylor of Camp Stanley, Korea -- joined the Armed Forces All-Tournament Team members on the U.S. All-Armed Forces Team, which will compete Sept. 30-Oct. 4 at the 2010 Amateur Softball Association National Championships in Oklahoma City.
(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs)