Local softball team wins another world title

The Dingers and Stingers rolled through National Softball Association (NSA) World Series last year, so they thought they’d play in a different association and come up with a new team name to try to stay under the radar.

They didn’t fool anybody.

Playing as the Mighty Ducks, the team made it to the United States Sports Specialty Association (USSSA) World Series earlier this month. Once again, they came away victorious.

“We changed the name to kind of surprise people at the beginning of the year,” manager and middle infielder Michael Willen said. “Everybody knew the Dingers and Stingers name, so we changed it to Mighty Ducks and people were like, ‘Oh wait, that’s the same team.’”

Last year’s NSA World Series was in Columbus, Ohio. This year, the Mighty Ducks were able to play in front of their home crowd at Lincoln Park.

Columbus North graduate Mickey Bell, a middle infielder and first baseman, said playing at home had its advantages.

“It was nice that we were able to win in our own city,” Bell said. “We didn’t have to stay in a hotel. We got to sleep in our own beds at night. I think it just helps you focus a little bit more. I think one big contributor was the crowd size we had, so it was nice playing in front of them.”

The Mighty Ducks went 6-1 on their way to winning the tournament. They won five consecutive games to take the winners’ bracket, but then lost to the losers’ bracket champion, Nasty Strong from Indianapolis, forcing a winner-take-all championship game.

This time, the Ducks, who had lost to Nasty Strong all six times the teams had met this year, prevailed.

“It was more challenging this year,” said Blake Lane, a North graduate who plays catcher and some outfield. “We played against better-caliber teams.”

The Ducks played in USSSA Division E. Next year, they will move up to Division D.

Still, Willen said this year was a battle throughout the tournament.

“The competition is more consistent as far as hitting and fielding all the way around,” said Edinburgh graduate Spenser Taylor, who plays second base. “Balls are moving a little quicker.”

Jennings County graduate Jake Ross is the team’s pitcher and led the Ducks with a .790 batting average in the tournament to earn tourney MVP honors. Bell, Taylor, Cole Garriott, Canaan Baum, Jordan Johnson and Craig Roberts joined Ross on the All-Tournament team.

“It was definitely a different feeling,” said Brownstown Central graduate Henry Riley, who plays right field. “I’ve never played on a team this good, and I never won any tournaments this big by any means, so it feels good to get my first ring.”

Willen was named Manager of the Year. Johnson, a Columbus East graduate who plays center field, was named Defensive Player of the Tournament.

“It was awesome,” Johnson said. “This team is a great team, and we all played our butts off. It was a great feeling.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.