It was a big year for girls’ softball in Tega Cay. For the first time, the city had two girls’ U12 teams, and both made it to the second round of the playoffs where they went head to head Monday night.
The Tega Cay Mad Hatters took off with an eight run lead early in the game, but the Tega Cay Thunderbolts steadily picked up steam to pull ahead 15-14 and earn the right to host Rock Hill tonight in the title game.
Thunderbolts head coach Mike Mayak says the level of talent makes the team stand out.
“This is a great group of girls, and as you can tell by the parent interaction, it’s a great group of parents,” he said. “I’ve got an abundance of parents that help out at every single practice and game, so that makes it special.”
“This was a tough game to lose, but I couldn’t be happier to lose to these guys,” said Mad Batters head coach Seth Campbell.
There is a reason the two teams were so evenly matched: the girls have grown up playing together.
“There’s not a person over there that they haven’t coached,” says former head coach and current Thunderbolts assistant Brad Parham. “There’s not a person over here that I haven’t coached. It’s a really good rivalry,” says Parham,who Campbell calls an advocate for girls’ softball in Tega Cay. He was instrumental in getting the softball rolling several years ago.
“I’ve been one of the coaches just because I wanted to spend time with my girls,” Parham says.
“Well, what happened was they all became my girls. When we first started off, we didn’t have enough players to fill the team, so we actually had to go out and search and find players when they were six and under. We started these players off when they were brand new to the game and we’ve slowly brought them up. Now we have two teams in Tega Cay and they have played with each other every season for the past five seasons. It’s not really an ‘us against them.’ Everybody’s cheering for everybody and everybody hopes they do well.”
Parham said he hoped the experience will give the girls a leg up to the next level.
“We have all kind of come up through this together. T-ball was co-ed, but we wanted something specifically for the girls to play fast pitch softball, and then they can move up as well,” he says.
Parents say local options for middle school softball are limited. Fort Mill middle schools do not currently have softball teams, but students can try out for the high school teams. Some students, like Banks Trail seventh grader Trista Reid, who catches for Nation Ford High, are able to play on the high school JV teams.
Thunderbolt first baseman Jaden Redfern, whose double walk off wrapped up Monday night’s game, explains her strategy for competing against friends and former teammates: “I told them—no friends until 8 o’clock.”
After that, it was back to friendship as usual.
The Thunderbolts will play Rock Hill’s Tate Realty team for the championship tonight at 6:15 p.m. at Runde Field.