A Gathering of Winners

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Angelina College Softball’s 2014 National Champs Celebrated at Reunion A Gathering of Winners

On that day back in May of 2014, when shortstop Sage Martinez camped under an infield fly and cradled the catch for the game’s final out in St. George, Utah, the Angelina College Lady Roadrunners seemed to have little idea of the magnitude of what they’d just accomplished. There wasn’t a massive dogpile, nor much of any sort of celebration at all. The players simply gathered on the pitching circle for what amounted to a group hug.

That was about it.

The final out made the ’14 Lady ‘Runners the 2014 NJCAA Division I National Champions – the first team from Texas to do so, and to date, the only national title winner in AC Athletics history.

This past Saturday, the team actually did more celebrating than they’d done a decade before, as the college hosted a 10-year reunion ceremony for the squad. Originally, the ceremony was supposed to take place before the current Lady Roadrunners’ afternoon doubleheader scheduled for Saturday outside at Lady Roadrunner Field. But with rains washing out the games, the ceremony moved inside Shands Gymnasium – fitting, considering that’s where those 2014 players eventually received their championship rings, along with a proclamation from a Texas congressman.

Current AC softball head coach Brette Kohring, her staff, and players helped set up an impromptu “infield” on the gym floor. The ’14 players were introduced starting lineup style, and they took their old positions in front of the crowd. Although some of the women have different last names now thanks to marriage, they were introduced according to the old roster, including their uniform numbers: No. 3, Madalyn Sumrall; No. 4, Trina Deyo; No. 5, Katelyn Barker; No. 6, Kaylon Morvant; No. 7, Kristin Boulware; No. 8, Gia Johns; No. 9, Taylor Harper; No. 10, Shelby Bruner; No. 12, Sage Martinez; No. 13, Kassie James; No. 15, Sidney Allen; No. 18, Kayleigh Roy; No. 19, Meranda Rodriguez; No. 21, Samantha Moore; No. 22, Melissa Boland; No. 23, Ashley Ingle; and No. 24, Tessa Thomas. Athletic Trainer Bridget Chandler.

And the architects of the team, former coaches Mark and Barbi Mattson.

Most of the team made the trip to Lufkin for the gathering, but not all were able to do so. One former teammate, Kassie James, is now coaching at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her team played a game on Saturday in – of all places – Utah. James couldn’t be with her former Lady Roadrunner crew physically, but one of her AC teammates connected with her on a video call and “carried” her to her position.

The ladies made the most of their reunion. They watched a slide show chronicling the march to the title, with pics of everything from game action to shots of players sleeping in the airport during the grueling 39-hour trip to Utah. There was plenty of “I remember that play!” conversation and plenty of laughter.

Some of them have their own families now, including their own children. One child saw a photo of her mother on-screen and asked in disbelief, “That was you? You did that?”

For the group photo, the players present took the very same positions they’d taken for the official championship pic.

Former president Dr. Larry Phillips attended Saturday’s event, where the team presented him with a signed ball. Phillips, who chased the team to Utah for its championship run, spoke to the crowd, recalling the “nerve-wracking” moments leading up to the final out of the World Series, and how he could only catch his breath after Martinez made the final catch.

And, just for emphasis, he and Martinez did a reenactment of the final popup right there on the Shands Gymnasium floor.

With the current crop of Lady Roadrunners on hand to both assist with and witness the ceremony, the “old guard” put together a special presentation. The 2014 players presented gift bags to the 2024 players, with the older players matching up with the ladies currently wearing their old numbers. It offered a perfect example of a “passing of the torch,” and the champs offered bits of advice.

Essentially, their message to the new crew went something like this:

Don’t take any of this for granted. It goes by faster than you could ever dream. You won’t remember all the final scores. You won’t remember all the hits or the plays. What you’ll remember is what you’re seeing with us right now. It’s the bond with our coaches and team and all the other memories that made all if it such a special part of our lives.

The games won’t last forever.

But so many of these memories will.

The email address for AC’s Sports Information Director is gstallard@angelina.edu.

Gary Stallard
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games. Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.

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