Amber Ortega describes the Douglas Diamonds’ season as “touch and go.” But there was hardly anything touch and go about the way Ortega’s team performed at the state tournament in Casper.
The 12U Diamonds softball team came together as one last weekend, outscoring their opponents 89-17 over the course of five games en route to a state championship victory over the Wheatland Lady Lobos, 11-8.
“They dug deep and fought hard the entire tournament,” Ortega said. “I’m really proud of these girls.”
The Diamonds are made up of Taylor Maxwell, Chloe Hinds, Cadance Vollman, Lola Cathcart, Aubrey Boynton, Shauntae Parker, Jadelyn Miller, Whitleigh Walsh, Kaylee Rouse, Mary Saint, Hannah Ortega, Riley Cook, Miley Booth, Trinity Wolfe, Cadance Brown, Beth Loveless and assistant coach Sami Cole.
Playing through the mid-summer heat, the Diamonds began pool play on Friday with a 37-0 win over the Worland Wildfire. Later in the day, they faced the Casper Cobras and beat them handily, 15-1.
The two victories placed them in the winner’s portion of the six-team double elimination bracket. Having earned a first-round bye, they faced the Lady Lobos - a team they’re very familiar with.
“Wheatland was our toughest competition by far this season,” Ortega said. “By the end of the season, we knew each other all too well.”
The familiarity created a back-and-forth game between the two teams with the Diamonds eventually holding on for a tight 8-6 win. The offense backed up Whitleigh Walsh, who stood strong on the hill and pitched every game of the tournament for the Diamonds.
Ortega couldn’t help but praise her efforts.
“Whitleigh was on fire,” she said. “She was lights-out the entire tournament for us.”
The Diamonds then moved on to a matchup on Sunday morning with the Lander Legends. They eased past the Legends 18-2 to clinch a spot in the championship game later that day.
It could only be seen as fitting that the Diamonds and Lady Lobos matched up one final time to decide who would win the state championship. Ortega’s team jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and with their bats unleashed once more, the Lobos were no match as Douglas held on to win the championship 11-8.
“All game long the girls were up on the fence cheering for one another,” Ortega said. “We played our best - we hit better during the tournament than we did all year, the girls were strong in the field behind Whitleigh - the girls came to play.”
“They encouraged each other, they got tough on one another when they needed to . . . they were truly what a team is supposed to be.”
Ortega is especially proud of the way the older girls on the team took the younger girls under their wing and came together as a team. The older girls stepped up into a clear leadership role and it stayed with them throughout the season.
“We had a great group of girls,” Ortega said. “They were a pleasure to coach.”
As they made their way back to Douglas Sunday evening, the team bus was escorted through town by police as residents pulled their cars over and made their way outside to congratulate the girls on their state championship win.
It’s the little things that take on an even greater meaning and as the girls waved to people in the streets, Ortega made sure to remind her team of the moment.
“I love our town and the way they get behind the teams when they win something,” Ortega said. “I told the girls it will be an experience they’ll always remember.”