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Boys high school softball vanishes after 24 years in Northwest Missouri

Monday, September 5th, 2016

By Cody Thorn / St. Joseph News-Press

ST. JOSEPH, MO – For the better part of a quarter century, Northwest Missouri offered a unique experience for student-athletes that attended smaller schools.

In many of the rural farming towns that lay between larger towns, football wasn’t offered, so each fall, the boys from those towns hit the diamond to play boys fastpitch softball.

During the fall of 1992, the sport became sanctioned by the Missouri State High School Activities Association and state championships were awarded. For 24 years, a total of 11 different towns throughout the area laid claim to winning a state title.

Jefferson defeated Winston 1-0 in the 2015 state championship game, and that turned out to be the final game played in the sport.

One year shy of the 25th anniversary of the sport, it vanished due to various reasons this fall.

Now, former standout athletes at those schools have moved onto other sports, but the legacy built over the years will live on with trophies, softballs with players signatures, and team photos taken over the years at the state tournament sites.

“The best athletes at these small farm towns would play softball. It was just expected,” said former Winston coach Eric Lewis. “Likely, the basketball coach was coaching the team, so they went out and played softball.

“It is very disappointing. I grew up playing high school fastpitch and I played with my father and I coached my sons and several of these young boys. I’ve been taking them to youth softball tournaments across the country.”

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The Fenstermachers carry on the legacy of the fastpitch family

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
The Fenstermacher fastpitch family of sons Zac, left,  and Jacob, daughter Maia, with father Bart.

The Fenstermacher fastpitch family of sons Zac, left, and Jacob, daughter Maia, with father Bart.

KUTZTOWN, Penn. – Throughout the history of men’s fastpitch, fathers have brought their sons into the sport. And it’s still happening across the country today – generation upon generation.

In Idaho, there’s the Alders, with father Greg and son Shane anchoring the Boise RiverDogs. And into Washington, we find Dan Kolda and his three sons Rick, Mike and Ryan playing together on K-Club.

Heading northeast into Minnesota, we learn that Duke Nessler introduced his three boys to fastpitch in the 1970s – Jeff, Randy and Dan. And now Dan has his son Steven playing who is a member of the USA Junior Men’s National Team.

Winding our way south into Missouri we meet Eric Lewis, who with his sons Craig and Jacob, have won ASA boys’ national championships.

And traveling east to Kutztown, Pennsylvania, we come upon the Fenstermachers. As with the Alders and Koldas, Lewis’s and Nesslers, the Fenstermachers is a family with a distinguished fastpitch legacy.

Father Bart, 47, brought his boys Zac, 25, and Jacob, 22, into the sport when they were young boys. And eagerly waiting to join her dad and brothers is three-year-old Maia.

Zac Fenstermacher, 25, at shortstop helped the Bedford Rays finish third in the 2014 NAFA World Series, A-Division.

Zac Fenstermacher, 25, at shortstop helped the Bedford Rays finish third in the 2014 NAFA World Series, A-Division.

Proud of their kids’ venture into the fastpitch game? You bet say mother Erin and Bart.

“It’s awesome to have the opportunity to travel and play a sport you love and spend time with your boys,” said Bart, who began playing fastpitch at 22. “(They) started as pinch runners on some of my teams, and Zac had his first at bat when he was 14 years old.”

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Young Craig Lewis sets high goals in fastpitch softball

Monday, November 10th, 2014
The Lewis family after winning the 2014 ASA Boys' 16-Under Fastpitch National Championship. From left, wife and mother, Deanna Lewis, Jacob, 13, Craig, 15, Brian, 10, and Eric Lewis. Contributed Photo.

The Lewis family after winning the 2014 ASA Boys’ 16-Under Fastpitch National Championship. From left, wife and mother, Deanna Lewis, Jacob, 13, Craig, 15, Brian, 10, and Eric Lewis. Contributed Photo.

WINSTON, Mo. – When he was a little tyke of 3 or 4, Craig Lewis was already wind-milling a softball and tagging along with his dad from one Missouri ball field to the next.

By first grade, he knew how to keep a scorebook.

And now at 15?

Well, let’s just say he’s too valuable on the field to have sitting on the bench scoring the game.


Craig Lewis had himself quite a high school fastpitch season this year. He pitched the defending champion Winston Redbirds to third place in the Missouri State High School Boys Fastpitch Tournament. This coming on the heels of pitching the Redbirds to the Harrison-Daviess-Caldwell (HDC) Conference championship (6-0, 16-2).

And he was a unanimous pick on the all-conference and all-state teams. Pretty good accomplishments for a 15-year-old sophomore, who had a 14-2 record. And just imagine the grief he’s going to give the competition with two more varsity years left.

So how did all this success come about?

No need to look any further than Craig’s dad, Eric Lewis.

“I grew up watching my dad pitch and I wanted to be just like him,” Craig said. He taught me to pitch and be mentally tough and not cave under pressure. He was always setting up games and taking my (boys’) team places to play, so we could be good in the future. He is the reason I have gotten into pitching.”

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Northwest Missouri Boys’ State Fastpitch Tournament Standings and Awards

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

WINSTON, MO – The Missouri Boys’ State Fastpitch Tournament has finished and the Jefferson Eagles went 3-0 to claim the championship, their 10th title since the tournament began in 1992.

2014 State Tournament Order of Finish
1. Jefferson Eagles 11-2
2. Mercer Cardinals 11-7
3. Winston Redbirds 16-2
4. North Harrison Shamrocks 7-6
5. Grundy Panthers 5-6
5. East Harrison 4-8
5. Tri-County Mustangs 2-9
5. Newtown-Harris Tigers 0-14

All-State Fastpitch Team

Jed Galbraith, senior, unanimous selection
Ben Jermain, junior, unanimous
Bryce Deen, junior, unanimous
Corby Walker, junior

Drew Cox, senior, unanimous
Trey Wilson, junior, unanimous
Devin Purvis, senior

Chevy Calhoon, senior, unanimous
Craig Lewis, sophomore, unanimous
Ty Uthe, junior, unanimous
Kristchon Hisel, junior

Blake Emig, senior, unanimous
Colton Castleberry, senior

Mason Radcliff, junior

Slade Orndorff, senior

Harrison-Daviess-Caldwell (HDC) Boys’ Fastpitch Conference Season Summary

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

WINSTON, MO – Boys’ fastpitch league play has finished in the HDC Conference along with the Missouri Boy’s State Fastpitch Tournament, and as a result, special awards have been granted to those who achieved at a high level.

First Team All-Conference (* denotes unanimous)
*Craig Lewis, So. Winston (U13)
*Chevy Calhoon, Sr. Winston (AC12,U13)
*Ty Uthe, Jr. Winston (U13)
*Kristchon Hisel, Jr. Winston (HM13)
*Colton Castleberry, Sr. North Harrison
*Blake Emig, Sr. North Harrison (HM13)
*Mason Radcliff, Jr. Grundy
*Drew Cox, Sr. North Mercer (HM12,U13)
*Trey Wilson, Jr. North Mercer (HM13)
*Devin Purvis, Sr. North Mercer
*Damion Goodman, So North Mercer
*Dillon Cook, Jr. Tri-County
*Wesley Sobotka, Jr. East Harrison
Reed Hallock, Sr. North Harrison (U13)
Seth Riddle, Jr. Grundy
Slade Orndorff, Sr. East Harrison (U12,U13)

Honorable Mention
Mason Alley, Sr. Grundy
Lance Cook, Fr. Tri-County

Coach of the Year
Eric Lewis, Winston

Final League Standings
1. Winston 6-0, 16-2
2. North Mercer 5-1, 11-7
3. North Harrison 4-2, 7-6
4. Grundy 3-3, 5-6
5. East Harrison 2-4, 4-8
6. Tri-County 1-6, 2-9
7 Newtown-Harris 0-6, 0-14

HDC Tournament Results
First – Winston
Second – North Harrison
Third – North Mercer
Fourth – East Harrison

State Tournament Final Four
Second-North Mercer
Fourth-North Harrison

Missouri boys battle for state high school fastpitch championship

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

2013-Winston.Boys.Fastpitch.web The Winston Redbirds won the 2013 Missouri Boys State High School Softball Championship and will try and repeat on Oct. 4.

CHILLICOTHE, Mo – On Saturday, Oct. 4, eight boys’ high school fastpitch softball teams will battle for a Missouri state championship.

The tournament is sanctioned by the Missouri State High School Activities Association, and will be held at Danner Park in Chillicothe.

Games start at 10 a.m. with eight teams participating in a single elimination format.

Defending champion and No. 1 seed Winston Redbirds coached by Eric Lewis takes on No. 8 Newtown-Harris at 10 a.m. in the top bracket with No. 2 Jefferson meeting No. 7 Tri-County in the bottom bracket. The championship is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

Since the boys tournament started in 1992, the Jefferson Eagles have won 9 of the 22 state championships that have been held. Winston won the state tournament for the first time in school history in 2013.

Led by the pitching of sophomore Craig Lewis, the Redbirds combined explosive power, sound defense and Lewis’s pitching to outscore the competition 42-3. Most of the team is back, including Lewis in the circle.

Northwest Royals of Winston, Missouri claim fifth ASA boys’ national championship

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

ASA Tournament 2014

By ERIC LEWIS / Head Coach Winston, Missouri Northwest Royals

ST. JOSEPH, MoCraig Lewis scattered six hits in leading the Northwest Royals of Winston, Mo. to an 8-3 victory over Northwest Implement of Conception Junction, Mo. to claim the ASA Boys’ 16-Under National Championship at Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Aug. 2.

The Royals have now won ASA boys’ national championships in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

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ASA Boys’ National Tournament opens in St. Joe

Thursday, July 31st, 2014


ST. JOSEPH, MO – The ASA Age 16-under Boys National Championship opens Friday and runs through Saturday, Aug. 1-2, at Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Three teams will compete for the championship with the title game scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

  • Northwest Royals, Winston, MO, Coach Eric Lewis
  • Northwest Implement, Conception Junction, MO, Coach Tim Jermain
  • Key City Juniors, Key City, Minn., Coach Brian Swanson

    12:30 p.m. Manager’s Meeting
    2 p.m. NW Royals vs NW Implement
    4 p.m. Key City Juniors vs NW Implement
    6 p.m. NW Royals vs Key City Juniors


    9 a.m. #2 seed vs #3 seed
    10:30 a.m. championship game

    St. Joseph Tournament Director-Chuck Kempf
    UIC-Jack Walker

    Urgent: ASA Boys’ Fast-Pitch National Tournament in St. Joseph, Mo.

    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014


    WINSTON, Mo. – Eric Lewis, manager of the Winston Royals boys’ fastpitch team is requesting information about what boys’ teams (ages 10-under to 18-under) are planning on playing in the 2014 ASA Boys’ Fast-Pitch National Tournament in St. Joseph, Missouri, July 30 – Aug. 3.

    Eric Lewis here; I’m a fastpitch dad and coach from Winston, Missouri. I am NOT an ASA or St. Joseph employee or contact – just someone who wants the game to survive and prosper.

    Click to continue reading “Urgent: ASA Boys’ Fast-Pitch National Tournament in St. Joseph, Mo.”

    Winston Redbirds sweep through Missouri Boys State Fastpitch Tournament

    Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

    2013-Winston.Boys.Fastpitch.webThe 2013 Missouri Boys State Fastpitch Champion Winston Redbirds include front row from left, Saxton Pliley, Ty Uthe, Stephen Evans, Chevy Calhoon, Dakota Hiley, Morgan Farrell, and Craig Lewis. Back row, left, assistant coach Jill West, Kristchon Hisel, Ethan Hiley, Jr. O’Dell, Zach O’Dell, Jordan Leonard, and head coach Eric Lewis. Not pictured, assistant coach Wayne Alexander and manager Jacob Lewis. Contributed Photo

    WINSTON, MO – Led by superb pitching and an explosive offense, the Winston Redbirds swept through the 22nd annual Missouri Boys’ State Fastpitch Tournament undefeated by outscoring three opponents 42-3 to claim the title of the eight-team event held Oct. 4-5 at Danner Park in Chillicothe.

    Winston opened with a 15-0 victory over Tina-Avalon, and followed that resounding offensive fireworks display by knocking off North Harrison 12-2 to set up a championship encounter with the Grundy County Panthers of Galt.

    The Panthers (2-1) reached the finals by defeating East Harrison 17-2, and then pulled out a thrilling 9-7 victory over Jefferson. But the Panthers were no match for the Redbirds, who rolled to a 15-1 state championship victory – the first for Winston since the tournament began in 1992.

    Winston enjoyed a dominating season by winning the HDC Conference title at 6-0, the HDC tournament championship and then capped off its season with a state title to finish 17-1.

    And this may only be the start of a long championship run for the Redbirds as the entire roster is expected back next season, including freshman sensation pitcher, Craig Lewis, son of head coach Eric Lewis, who also serves as the school’s boys’ basketball coach and athletic director.

    The Jefferson Eagles, 10-time state champions, claimed third with a 2-1 record, while North Harrison took fourth at 1-2. Newtown-Harris (2-1) claimed the consolation bracket by downing Mercer (1-2), 12-6.


    1. Winston 6-0, 17-1
    2. Grundy County 4-2, 9-4
    2. Newtown-Harris 4-2, 7-9
    2. North Harrison 4-2, 6-6
    5. North Mercer 2-4, 7-12
    6. East Harrison 1-5, 4-9
    6. Tri-County 1-5, 1-7

      FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE (*denotes unanimous selection)

    *Micah Busick, Sr. Newtown-Harris (U11,U12)
    *Luke Stanley, Sr. North Harrison (AC11,U12)
    *Gaige Blake, Sr. North Harrison (HM11,AC12)
    *Reed Hallock, Jr. North Harrison
    *Destin Gann, Sr. Grundy (HM11,U12)
    *Clayton Radcliff, Sr. Grundy (U11,AC12)
    *Cade Mullenix, Jr Grundy
    *Chevy Calhoon, So. Winston (AC12)
    *Craig Lewis, Fr. Winston
    *Ty Uthe, So Winston
    *Drew Cox, Jr. North Mercer (HM12)
    Slade Orndorff, Jr. East Harrison (U12)
    Matthew Craig, Sr. East Harrison (HM12)
    Adam Crawford, Sr. Newtown-Harris (HM11,U12)
    Grant Widner, Sr. North Mercer (U12)
    Stuart Eller, Sr. Grundy

      Honorable Mention

    Kristchon Hisel, So. Winston
    Tanner Hudson, Jr. Grundy
    Blake Emig, Jr. North Harrison
    Trey Wilson, So. North Mercer
    Nate Sutton, Sr. Tri-County

      Coach of the Year

    Eric Lewis, Winston