The women from the softball team California Spirit really showed their vitality during a Huntsman World Senior Games Championship in October, claiming a first place Division 1 gold title in the Women’s 65 plus division. The 16 teammates from around the U.S. claimed the gold medal and first place title including four ball players from the Central Valley: Cat Chavez, Betsy Borda, Darlene Harrity, and Riverbank city staffer Kerrie Webb.
The ladies won this tournament after fighting their way through with eight wins and one loss, scoring 129 runs during the tourney. The California Spirit shined at the tournament held in St. George, Utah from Oct. 16 through 18.
They played three games on Monday for seeding and fell into the loser’s bracket, coming back from there with resiliency and determination, making their way from the loser’s bracket to take first place honors against the Ohio Cardinals. The final score in the championship game was 17-5, the Spirit winning with a mercy-run rule.
“It was amazing,” stated Webb. “We played from 7 a.m. in the morning until 3 p.m. in the afternoon without a break. That is tough when you’re old.
“We had plays that were unbelievable; we had hits that were unbelievable. We had angels in the outfield.”
Webb has been playing ball since 1970 and has worked for the City of Riverbank for 16 years, serving as Parks and Recreation Supervisor. She usually plays in the outfield but also has been behind the plate catching quite often.
Chavez grew up in Riverbank and currently resides in Modesto and has been playing softball all her life. She is known to be in the infield playing shortstop at times and wherever she may be needed.
“Together we have been playing for about 35 years,” said Chavez. “I love the sport, I love the competition, I love the gals, I love to win, it keeps me in shape and I love the competition.”
The team travels throughout the United States and has played in locations including Alabama, Virginia Beach, Colorado, Seattle, Hawaii, and Oregon to play in tournaments. They have also traveled to Canada for tournament play.
The teammates shared that they get along great and if there someone that has a ‘tantrum.’ they only get three seconds to act out and then must move on.
“We were fourth place last year,” added Chavez. “It is Huntsman World Senior Games and it is teams from all over the country and we placed first in the gold bracket and that is the highest bracket in the U.S. and Canada for 65’s.”
Giving credit to their 75 year old coach Cathy “Skippee” Nicholson, Chavez explained that she can run faster and hit harder than any of them.
Borda lives in Jamestown and began her softball career in junior high school, playing fast pitch and then played slow pitch.
“We have seen some of these teams before but there were teams from all over,” said Borda. “The one team we beat we played two games in a row to beat them. It felt great especially since we don’t always beat the Ohio Cardinals from back east.”
Enjoying the camaraderie, Borda explained that it is a lot of fun being around her teammates, exercising and staying in shape.
Harrity and her husband owned a pharmacy in Riverbank many years ago and currently reside in Modesto. She has been playing competitive softball since she was 28 years old, after being recruited by Chavez.
“I played a church league and in the street with the boys as a kid,” said Harrity. “Boys could play but girls could not go out and play sports at all. There were no organized sports for women at all when we were growing up so we just played in the street with the boys in the neighborhood.”
Considering herself a utility player on the team, Harrity plays wherever she is needed.
“It has the best competition and the fields are immaculate and they really take care of their athletes,” added Harrity. “We had 15 teams in our brackets in 65s. That is a lot to play against. It is awesome winning first place. There is nothing better.”
The camaraderie between the other teams is just as warm as their own for each other, Harrity explained, as well have being fierce competitors.
“We are all the same age and we are happy to be here at this age, still playing ball and good ball,” stated Harrity. “We play good for our age. These girls are just as competitive as we are and they want to win. We congratulate each other on our wins or losses.”
The ladies have a no quit attitude and although the adrenaline keeps them going through an entire tournament, so does their friendship that has made them family.
The California Spirit will travel to Phoenix to compete in their next tournament for the Winter Worlds. A challenge these ballers are ready for, no doubt.