USSSA 11U World Series Champions - Oak Park Windmills
1st Row (L-R) Carly Tucci, Rachel Martinez, Meagan Torres, Asst. Coach Scot Lindmark, Katherine Karnatz, Nellie Hale, Kristin Garcia; 2nd Row (L-R) Asst. Coach Bob Torres, Head Coach Dan Karnatz, Angela Zedak, Cassie Lindmark, Kaitlyn Scheitler, Mary Jones, Fiona Girardot, Taylor Divello, Asst. Coach Tom Divello, Asst. Coach Dawn Garcia, Scorekeeper Jon Hale.
The Oak Park 11U Windmills softball team certainly proved this summer that they can play with the big girls, and then some.
The Windmills routed the Arkansas Thunder 9-1 to win the USSSA World Series title on July 28th in Des Moines, Iowa. The Windmills, 93-15 overall this summer, appeared virtually unstoppable during the prestigious national championship competition. The team averaged nine runs and allowed less than one run per game en route to an undefeated showing at the 44-team tournament.
Kaitlyn Scheitler and Taylor Divello shared lots of happy memories with their teammates throughout the season as the Windmills worked together on and off the field to become state and national champions.
"I liked the fact that we won as much as we did," Scheitler said. "We were the younger team, and it made us feel special that we could beat the older teams. It made me smile."
Team chemistry coupled with considerable talent fueled the Windmills' torrid run of success all summer in the estimation of Divello
"On the field, we're always sticking together," she said. "We always work together and we learned how to play for each other no matter what happens."
One of the many highlights of the summer for the Windmills was their ASA state championship game win against the New Lenox Lightning. The Windmills overcame a five-run deficit as Mary Jones clubbed a walk-off three-run homer to edge the Lightning 10-9. Head coach Dan Karnatz claimed that game as his favorite memory of the lengthy summer campaign. One moment, in particular, stood out as proof of his team's swagger and competitive fire.
With the Windmills trailing 7-3, a pitcher from the Lightning hit a batter with a pitch and Karnatz went out to talk to the umpire. Two moms of players from the Lightning yelled out from the bleachers, 'If you can't play with the big girls, you shouldn't play at all.'"
That served as more than enough motivation for the Windmills.
"Our girls heard those comments," Karnatz said. "If you call [our team] out, they'll bring the thunder. That's exactly what we did, and we ended up winning the game 10-9."
The Windmills also made a serious impact off the field as well. The team took part in disaster relief for the tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma in late May during a tournament played in the state just days after the disaster took away thousands of homes.
The Windmills earned an 8-1 win over the Oklahoma Vendetta, a team that previously had beaten them. More significantly, the Windmills launched an organization-wide effort to donate clothes, gift cards, and other necessary items to those in need. Fiona Giriardot and Katherine Karnatz were glad to be a part of a team that helped the disaster victims.
"It feels good," said Giriardot. "It's nice to be able to do things for other people."
Katherine Karnatz added: "It was really sad (to see the damage from the tornadoes). We tried to do as much as we could and donate a lot of things so we could make their lives better."