- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
April and Kevin Fernandes first met on the softball field as members of a coed softball team seven years ago.
The now-married couple each were members of a coed softball team that won the United States Specialty Sports Association slowpitch mixed Class D Maryland state title last weekend in Ocean City.
It was the first softball state title for either of the two.
“It’s always been one of those boxes that you want to check,” April Fernandes said of the state title.
Kevin Fernandes added, “I was obviously excited for her to get her first one because I know she had [been] runner-up for four straight years. It was even better to be a part of one, too.”
Team Going Down South was composed of women from the SOMD Elite and men from Southern Smoke slowpitch teams, and headed by Elite head coach Paula King.
For King and Going Down South, the plan going to the coed state tournament may have been to win, but that may not have been the ultimate goal; the team was put together only two weeks before the tournament opened play.
“It was a five-minute decision to go out and play coed,” King said. “We had no expectations of winning it. We just wanted to go out, have a good time, get a few games in, goof off, and we ended up winning it.”
The idea to bring the two teams together originated last summer but actually happened this summer.
“We were just like, ‘Hey, let’s put the Smoke boys in with the Southern Maryland Elite girls and go have ourselves a good time,’ and that’s what we did,” King said. “It just never really happened before with our busy schedule and their busy tournament schedule; it was hard to get coed games in.”
But for King, April Fernandes and the Elite women a part of the coed team, it was their second state title in as many weekends; Elite won the USSSA slowpitch women’s Class D Maryland state title, also in Ocean City, on Aug. 3.
“It was a pretty exciting two weeks,” April Fernandes said. “It’s pretty awesome, and it’s pretty sweet. I haven’t won a state championship on [a] women’s or coed [team], so to win it back-to-back is pretty cool. ... To be able to get it back-to-back like that and be able to get to play with my husband is pretty cool.”
Elite pitcher Denise Bayer was named the women’s tournament Most Valuable Player in helping her team win the title.
“Her athletic ability on the mound combined with teams not hitting her, it made everybody else’s job pretty easy,” King said of Bayer. “She was the team leader out there on the field.”
As King said Bayer made life easy for the team, Bayer admitted the team made life easy for her and that the symmetry between pitcher and defense was state-championship worthy.
“We really do have the best defense around,” Bayer said. “You know that the girls are going to make the plays, so that makes my job easy because all I have to do is get the ball across the plate.”
The competition at the state tournaments allow the players of Southern Maryland to face other softball teams and gain valuable experience when coming back to local competitors.
“Pretty tough competition,” King said of what they face at tournaments. “Especially going into the state, we played in a tournament [before the women’s state tournament] and went 0-5. We didn’t win a ballgame. A lot of teams underestimated us going into states.”
King and Elite, the county’s Women’s League Division I regular season champions, now prepare for the upcoming playoffs.