Sep 29, 2013

Diamond Dawgs bring home State Championship

BY RYAN BERRY
MANAGING EDITOR
GREENVILLE – Darke County has a new State Champion in Special Olympics Softball. The Diamond Dawgs took the championship with a 19-9 victory over Lorain County. Darke County’s Sluggers team finished third in the state with a victory over Franklin County in the bronze medal game, 23-6.

In the semi-final games, the Diamond Dawgs beat Stark County 11-10. The Dawgs beat Stark County in the 2011 and 2012 state finals. The Sluggers lost to Lucas County 20-5 in the semi final game to put them in the bronze medal game.

Darke County had three Special Olympics Team competing against other counties this season. Joining Diamond Dawgs (adult team) and Sluggers (school-age team) on the field this year was the Warriors (adult team). Although they did not qualify at the sectional tournament for the state tournament, the Warriors had a successful season. This is the third year for Darke County Special Olympics to have three teams competing in the regular season and in the tournament playoffs. Cindy Rose, Darke County Special Olympics director, said, “It was a great softball season for all three teams. Obviously the Diamond Dawgs and Sluggers had the opportunity to play at the state tournament, but the Warriors also had a great regular season and sectional tournament and I couldn’t be more proud.

Since 1996, Darke County softball teams have won nine state championships. The Sluggers have earned the honor five times, while the Warriors earned the title once and the Diamond Dawgs took home the championship three times. “I believe we have created a softball tradition in Darke County. This doesn't happen without the commitment from the community, volunteers, players, coaches, families, and fans. I always refer to the building of our own softball field in 2008. We were able to raise enough money in five months to build an incredible field for our program. That doesn't happen without unbelievable support. And the players want to be part of that,” said Rose

Unlike some of the other Special Olympics sports, softball is determined by skill level rather than age. The Diamond Dogs competed in division one and the Sluggers were in division three. Since there are only a few school aged teams (under 22 years of age) in the state the Sluggers were matched up against adults. Rose said, “You don't see the bigger counties having three teams that compete. We had 40 players and nine coaches between three teams. No other local county Special Olympics program has that much interest in their softball program. Even those counties that have their own field like us don't get the interest that we do. I attribute this to not only our success on the field but also our success off the field. We pride ourselves at being a "family." Many players on the Warriors and Diamond Dawgs were once Sluggers when they were in school and still want to be part of the program as adults.

“As the director, I continue to be proud of how our athletes represent the Darke County community while at the state event. Through the years people recognize our name because we have been to the state softball tournament many times, but compliment our players, families, and fans on how they conduct themselves in a positive manner. At the end of the day, that is more exciting to me than winning a state championship.”

Rose praised the community for its support of Darke County’s Special Olympics program, “We wouldn't be able to make these overnight trips without the support of the community and local donations. All funding for Darke County Special Olympics comes from the Darke County community and all money stays local to support local athletes. Thank you to all who support us with their donations.”

If you would like more information on Darke County Special Olympics, “Like” their page on Facebook or visit their developing website at www.darkecountyspecialolympics.shutterfly.com.

The State Champion Diamond Dawgs roster includes Jeremy Monnin, Nick Meade, Lindsey Foster, Lara Knick, Matt Forsythe, Robert Staver, Devin Billenstein, Caleb Knick, Chris Shaneyfelt, Jeremy Durbin, Bill Brandewie, Thomas Borchers, Allison Staver, Sierra Forsythe, Stewart Spille, Andrew Vititoe, and coaches Cindy Rose, Gary Knick, and Ted Bowers.

The third place Sluggers roster includes Sheyenne Shimp, Ashley Mullins, Keith Green, JJ Staver, Derrick Hemmelgarn, Jordon Vititoe, Dan Mathis, Casper Younker, Kyle Eichelberger, Anthony Draving, Jesse Younker, and coaches Lauren Nieport, Bob Nieport, and Robbie Jones.

The Diamond Dawgs and Sluggers represented Darke County well at the Special Olympics State Softball Tournament.

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