Richmond history: Ladies lace up for Senior Games softball

 Richardson: “I’m havin’ a blast”

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Photo gallery – more than 700 images

EAST ROCKINGHAM — After nearly two months of waiting for the first pitch, Audrey Richardson was in no mood to let it go by.

Richardson laced Brooke Deaver’s debut offering on Friday at East Rockingham Park to short stop and stretched to reach first base before the throw beat her to the bag. She was safe, and so was the start of the women’s softball team in the Senior Games of Richmond County.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Left fielder Linda Stooksbury hauls in a fly ball.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Left fielder Linda Stooksbury hauls in a fly ball.

It’s the 25th year the Senior Games, a series of athletic and artistic talent competitions, have been contested in Richmond County. Friday night was the first time Richmond County has fielded a women’s softball team.

The first two games for the women’s softball team were originally scheduled for May 2 in Fayetteville. By the flexibility of the county-level Games rules, it didn’t matter who the women played — or where. After nearly eight weeks and multiple postponements, though, it seemed coach Frank Stooksbury’s team was ready to play just about anybody. All the team had to do was play — win or lose, the top two places qualify for the state Games this fall.

Things started off well for the senior squad. With Richardson on first, Mary Kidd slapped a single up the middle and Connie Thomas’ pop fly fell to the ground to load the bases. Sally Strickland hit into a fielder’s choice for the seniors’ first out of the inning — but Richardson bolted home and scored the team’s first run. Kidd scored when Trena Jenkins hit into a fielder’s choice to give the seniors a 2-0 lead.

Then the opponents, comprised of a hodgepodge of players from a variety of Hot Mamas Softball League teams — and most much younger than 50 — came to bat. Girl, could they hit. By the time the Oddballs had tallied their three outs in the bottom of the first, they’d recorded two homers and six runs to take a 6-2 lead.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Southpaw Robin Kapp hurls a practice pitch to catcher Mary Spell.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Southpaw Robin Kapp hurls a practice pitch to catcher Mary Spell.

The seniors cut that deficit in half in the top of the second inning. Ricki Haley led off with a single to center and moved to second when Mary Spell singled. Robin Kapp hit into a fielder’s choice and was safe on second while Haley advanced to third base. Irene Cooper, at 63 the team’s oldest player, drove in Haley on a sacrifice grounder. Sissy Liles singled to drive in Kapp to cut the Oddballs’ lead to 6-4.

In the bottom of the second, the Oddballs put the game away with hit after hit and run after run. They reached the seven-run limit and led 13-4 after only two innings, then scored three more times in the third frame for a 16-4 victory in four innings.

Frank Stooksbury recognized his team had practiced together only a few times. The players will have an opportunity to practice more before the state Games.

“I think they did pretty well,” Stooksbury said on first review.

He said it was important for them to get on the field and “just let ’em have fun. That’s the whole point.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Coach Frank Stooksbury waves Robin Kapp home. App rounded third scored the senior team's fourth and final run in a 16-4 loss.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Coach Frank Stooksbury waves Robin Kapp home. App rounded third scored the senior team’s fourth and final run in a 16-4 loss.

Third baseman Connie Thomas is the team’s resident expert when it comes to all things related to Senior Games softball. Her late husband was a member of Pinehurst Hip and Knee, the national title-winning team in the men’s 55 to 59 bracket in 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pa. For years, Thomas said, she traveled around and filled as many roles as possible — wife, scorekeeper, team mom and more. During her travels, she picked up a thing or two about the game. Friday night was the realization of a long-held dream that a sufficient number of Richmond County women would be interested to field a team.

“I have a passion for Senior Games,” Thomas said. “The whole purpose is to keep seniors active.”

Winning or losing, then, isn’t the primary point. But even Thomas acknowledged that while “you appreciate the opportunity to play, you never lose that competitive spirit.”

The Richmond County seniors will play in the women’s 50 to 54 age division. The rules dictate they must play in the bracket of the youngest member on their team. While Cooper, at 64 — who started the second game Friday as catcher — is the oldest, Richardson, at 49, is the youngest. She won’t turn 50 until August.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Coach Frank Stooksbury was pleased with his team's defense, like this play by outfielder Trena Jenkins.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Coach Frank Stooksbury was pleased with his team’s defense, like this play by outfielder Trena Jenkins.

A founding member of the Hot Mamas Softball League four years ago, Richardson said she’s thrilled to have the chance to represent Richmond County at the state level.

“I’m havin’ a blast,” she said before taking the field for the start of the second game.

Friday night’s second game was rained out.

Related coverage
* April 27: ‘Never end on a bad shot’
* April 23: Walker on croquet: ‘I know the game’
* April 22: “Gimme that ball”
* April 20: “There’s so much talent” at Silver Arts
* April 18: Seniors take flight on field day
*  April 17: Bowling with ‘Games face on’
* April 16: McLain on the Games: “I’m back”
* April 15: Pickleball ‘a tongue hanging out game’
* April 14: Taylor, Clemmons, Wells lead swimming
* April 14: Women’s bocce

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Catcher Mary Spell popped up behind home plate in time to snag this foul ball.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Catcher Mary Spell popped up behind home plate in time to snag this foul ball.

* April 13: Opening ceremony
* April 13: Men’s bocce ball opens Games
* March 18: Last day to register
* March 9: No rhythm required
* Feb. 8: Senior Games set for April
* Oct. 18, 2014: 4 locals win gold at NC Senior Games

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