Locust Grove Cardinals win inaugural USSSA World Series
The Locust Grove Cardinals, with coaches in back, won the United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series baseball championship in their first appearance on July 17-18 in Bixby, Oklahoma, in the 8-and-under, coach-pitch division. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Ayden Littledave competes against the Vinita Dirty Dawgs on July 17 during the United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series in Bixby, Oklahoma. COURTESY
United Keetoowah Band citizen Kamden Feeling gets a hit against the Arkansas Express on July 18 during the United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series in Bixby, Oklahoma. COURTESY
BIXBY, Okla. – The Locust Grove Cardinals, an 8-and-under, coach-pitch baseball team from Locust Grove, competed in its first United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series July 17-18, winning its division.
The Cardinals have 12 members, nine of who started as a team two years ago. About two-thirds of the team are Cherokee Nation or United Keetoowah Band citizens.
Since forming, the team has won weekend tournaments, two state championships and its first world series. Though not affiliated with a league, the team is considered a “tournament team,” meaning it only competes in weekend tournaments around the state.
“(In the) World Series play, we didn’t have intentions up there. Really, I just wanted them to go up there for the experience and have fun, so I just told them ‘all I want you to do is try hard. I mean just play hard and if we win, that’s great. If we don’t, just know that as long as you tried hard that’s all that matters,’” head coach Mike Witt said.
The team started slowly in the 2017 spring season because of inclement weather limiting its playing time and finding a place to practice.
“Our expectations kind of went down for a little bit, but they ended up fighting back hard at the end of the season, doing really well and peaking at the right time,” Witt said.
To prepare for the World Series, the team practiced up to three days a week with two-hour practices.
“We did most of our practices right…on the (Locust Grove High School) football field because we didn’t have a field all year because there’s so many teams in little league, and we weren’t in the league, so we weren’t first priority. So we had to make do with what we had,” Witt said.
To qualify for the World Series, the Cardinals had to win its division in the USSSA State Championship East tournament in Broken Arrow.
“State tournament is where it really changed for them. The atmosphere just changed. We started bringing a radio and letting them have their own (music) playlist and that really loosened them up…and it just seemed like it really helped them play better. In the World Series, it’s just a totally different ball games because everybody’s the best there,” Witt said.
UKB citizen Kamden Feeling, pitcher and right field, said he was “excited” when he learned his team was going to the World Series.
CN citizen Ayden Littledave, centerfield, said the team was “happy” it was able to win. He was also selected for the USSSA Global World Series All-Tournament Team.
“It’s cool because we get to have big giant rings, and it makes us happy that we won,” Littledave said.
Though the team went 0-4 in pool play, it went 5-0 in tournament play that led to its victory. It beat the Arkansas Express in the final game.
Witt said the Locust Grove community and the parents of the team members were supportive in helping send the team to the World Series. He said for next season, he wants to win again.
“I think we got the kids and the coaches to do it. Everybody’s bought in I think. Parents are great. This year, we wasn’t expecting to do as good as we did do. They had us bumped up in a higher division first, we struggled with that a lot, but we ended up doing really good. So that just shows the character of the team. They battle hard and fight hard,” he said.