Royals claim second consecutive national championship

Written by Bob on August 21st, 2009

Royals ChampsLR

WINSTON, MISSOURI – Imitation and lots of practice go far in developing athletic skill. And that includes learning how to windmill a softball underhanded.

10-year-old Craig Lewis and his brother, Jacob, 8, will vouch for that.

On August 1-2, the two brothers pitched their Northwest Missouri Royals age 10-under boys’ fastpitch softball team to an Amateur Softball Association (ASA) National Championship at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minnesota.

The Royals marched through the four-team national tournament undefeated (5-0) and knocked off the Garden City, Minnesota / Key City Big Dog, 12-2, in the championship game to claim their second consecutive national championship in the 10-under division.

But as well as the boys pitched in allowing two runs and six hits in the entire tournament, they had plenty of help in the hitting and defensive sides of the game. The Royals hitting machine outscored its opponents by a 59-2 margin.

And the defense was nearly flawless committing but one error the entire tournament.

Head Coach, Eric Lewis praised the support of the parents – especially the dads of whom many are former or current fastpitch players.

“Several of the dads played fastpitch together on the old Road Runners / Thunder teams of northwest Missouri,” said Lewis, who is the Winston High School principal, athletic director, and coach of the boys’ softball and basketball teams.

“Our parents all were very dedicated. They and the boys’ sisters threw a lot of batting practice at home to help these baseball players make the transition to fastpitch.”

Imitate And Practice.
Eric Lewis, 42, has been pitching fastpitch softball since he was 14. As a youngster, he watched his dad, Nylen, pitch and soon young Eric was windmilling himself. And when Craig and Jacob came along, the family tradition was destined to continue.

“Craig started imitating me when he was about 3 or 4,” Lewis said. “We started playing catch in the living room and he just started pitching bigger balls and further distances as he grew up.”

Lewis said that he and his boys practice two or three times each week during the winter months. When spring and summer come, the practices intensify outdoors.

And young Craig has no doubt all that practice has paid off.

“I like playing for my team and I like practicing my pitching,” Craig said. “I want us to be successful.”

United Effort
The Royals are comprised of boys from the northwest Missouri towns of Winston, Maryville, Conception Junction, Guilford, Fairfax, and Stanberry. And along with Lewis, the coaches include Tim Jermain and Randy Luke. All three coaches have been long-time friends, and they are all fastpitch players.

Luke said that the boys excel in several sports, including his son, Cory, who played the infield for the Royals.

“This group of boys love to play sports,” Luke said, “whether its football, basketball, baseball, they are pretty competitive. They enjoy fastpitch because it’s a faster game and closer (shorter distance to the bases) than baseball. This has given Cory an opportunity to enjoy the sport as much as I have when I played.”

Danny Zimmerman didn’t know a lot about boys’ fastpitch when his son, John, 10, joined the Royals. He says that John, a pitcher, infielder, and catcher in baseball, quickly grew a liking for the underhanded sport.

“He loves it,” said Danny Zimmerman. “The highlight for John was turning a 6-4-3 double play. He thinks fastpitch is awesome. Our whole family had a blast at the national tournament not only watching our team but the other (divisions) too. The age 23-under division was amazing to watch.”

Show-Me-State Does Well
Missouri had a strong presence in the nationals. Stanberry Northwest Implement claimed the 16-under division, while the Amazonia Rockhounds finished fourth in the 18-under. And the Stanberry Northwest Implement 23-under team finished with a respectable 2-2 record.

With back-to-back national titles in the 10-under division, Lewis and his coaches have their sights set on moving up to the ASA 12-Under division. But that could be a problem. This year, the ASA was unable to offer 12-under and 14-under divisions because of a lack of teams.

So Lewis is on a mission.

Recruiting Effort Underway
“I’ve been contacting the other 10-under coaches (Brian Swanson, Brian Johnson, and Travis Young) from this year’s tournament and we are all trying to recruit more fastpitch dads to get involved and start teams,” he said.

As for the Royals, Lewis plans on entering both a10-under and 12-under teams in the 2010 national tournament. And he’s also trying to start a summer boys’ fastpitch program.

“There are no boys’ leagues at this time, but we are trying to start them by next summer,” Lewis said. “We have met some hesitation by the baseball people, but to ease their fears, we are trying to wait until after baseball is over in July and then start two leagues for 12-under and high school.”

Time To Celebrate
But next July will come soon enough. Right now the Royals are basking in the after glow of a national championship. They’ve been written up in the local newspapers. Friends and family have cheered and praised their efforts. Town dignitaries have lauded their accomplishments.

And the championship trophy the Royals carted home is making its rounds to the boys’ various elementary schools where it is being put on display for all to see.

“Our trophy was put at the front of the gym with our (team) picture,” said Craig Lewis. “My teachers and the janitors (congratulated) me.”

The 2009 Northwest Royals National Champions include, Cole Craig, Cory Luke, John Zimmerman, Brody Cooper, Morgan Farrell, Grant Meyer, Alex Bean, Craig Lewis, Jacob Lewis, Jordan Leonard, Austin Rhoades, and Ben Jermain. Coaches: Eric Lewis, Tim Jermain, Randy Luke. Scorekeeper, Nylen Lewis.

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