Mothers and daughters aren't always the best of friends. But on the women's softball team at Oakdale Baptist Church, they have to be if they want to win.
And winning is exactly what the team's five mother-daughter combos came out to do Tuesday at their first league tournament game, leading them to a 6-3 victory over First Baptist Church of Rock Hill.
Then they did it again on Thursday, when they racked up a 5-1 victory over Rock Hill's St. Anne's Catholic Church to advance to the championship game.
Leading the pack is Bernice Brandon - "Mama B" or "Mama 45" for her jersey number - the Oakdale Baptist catcher.
At 71, she's also the team matriarch. She shows off her status in the "Mama 45" license plate on her truck, or the blinging gold "45" hanging from a chain around her neck.
Mama B started playing softball when she was 43. She initially changed her number each year to match her age, but she stopped at 45 because that was the year Michael Jordan chose the same number for his jersey during his brief run in Minor League baseball.
She doesn't really exercise, and when she comes home after a game she's more interested in a couch, a good meal and a Pepsi than she is in nursing her aches and pains - because they don't really exist.
In fact, with the way she gets up and down behind home plate, it's hard to believe she wouldn't surpass her goal of being the oldest woman ever to have played in the local church league.
She only has to get to 73 to beat the record.
Before her team's first tournament game Tuesday night, with the swing of a bat Mama B's competitive swagger turned to tears as she explained why she really loves playing softball for Oakdale Baptist.
It changed her life.
"Everyone just loves one another and pulls for one another," she said. "I can't really explain it. I said I was going to play until I can't walk on the field."
So far, she's still walking onto the field just fine for every game.
In the dugout, Mama B stands at the fence, clapping her hands or clinging to the chain-link calling out, "Yeah, Oakdale, yeah! Come on!" in her high-pitched Southern drawl.
It's Tuesday night and they're up 3-0 against First Baptist. It's been a couple of innings since they scored.
"Three's not enough against them, and we know it," said Brenda Brandon, Mama B's daughter, as her teammates enter the dugout. "When we get on the field we get serious because we like to have fun.
"But the purpose is to win."
The mother-daughter dynamic doesn't affect the way the team plays, Brenda Brandon said, except to make the team stronger - and teach players to be kind.
"There's a lot of forgiveness," she said. "If your mom makes a mistake, you don't want to fuss at her."
That mother-daughter dynamic also intensifies the need to look out for other players.
The next time Oakdale takes the field, Brenda sweeps in to home plate to catch a ball soaring in from the outfield - and toward Mama B's head.
Helen Myers, another team matriarch, enjoys playing ball with her daughter because of the "proud moments," she said.
"Mothers tend to nurture the young ones and sometimes they don't want to hear what we're saying, and you see them come around," she said. "They grow with it."
In playing softball together, Myers and her daughter, Kelly, have grown close. It also gives Myers the chance to be near her daughter through the difficult years of becoming an adult.
"We grew together in a lot of ways," she said.
Myers' sister, pitcher Anna Turney, and Turney's daughter, Stephanie Turney, 26, also play on the team. The Oakdale Baptist softball team has been a part of Stephanie's life ever since she was too young to play.
"When I was little," she said, "I got to watch them play when they were really good."
Those skills must have rubbed off.
Stephanie played short stop for Winthrop University's women's softball team and is now the assistant coach for Rock Hill High School's girls' softball team.
But, in many way, Myers said, it all comes back to Mama B.
"She would slide in a heartbeat," Myers said. "If someone would yell, 'Down!' she'd be down.
"Any base, it doesn't matter."
See for yourself
Oakdale Baptist Church's women's softball team plays for the league championship at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the church's fields, 1249 Oakdale Road, Rock Hill.