Members of the 2010 state champion ASA 10-U Lady Celts softball team are, back row, left to right: Head Coach Alan Kinler, assistant coach Mike Ebner and assistant coach Greg Tutor. Middle row: Maggie Buckholz, Analyssa Ruiz, Paige Downer, Jordyn Tutor, Rachel Wood, Paige Whipple, Haley Ebner and Hannah Childress. Front row: Emma Kinler, Caysie Isham, Kiyah Brown and Heather Arp. Not pictured: Team manager Sarah Tutor.

Of the Keizertimes

A dominating run ended with a state championship for the Lady Celts 10U softball team.

“It is something that no one can take away from them,” said Alan Kinler, the team’s head coach. “They are state champions.”

“It’s kind of a big thing whenever a local team wins a state championship, at any level,” said assistant coach Greg Tutor.

The tournament, sanctioned by ASA, was held Fourth of July weekend. The girls opened in Happy Valley and played their other games at North Clackamas Park in Milwaukie.

Along the way the Celts defeated Rip City of Portland, Herricanes of West Valley (Dallas), Xtreme of Klamath Falls, and Blast of Tigard. Their streak of having never lost a tournament this season continued when they defeated the Lady Eagles of Eagle Point, 7-2, in the championship game.

“I truly hope it brings an excitement to the Salem-Keizer area for girls to want to play softball,” said Kinler of possible aftershocks. “This is a great softball community and it will only grow more now.”

Dreams of winning the title began last October.

“We really thought we could make a deep run into state,” said Kinler. “We added some quality girls around January and knew at that time it was a very real possibility. Then, as the season grew on, it was pretty obvious we had a very special group of girls.”

It didn’t hurt matters that the girls are dedicated athletes.

“The girls worked really hard,” said Kinler. “They worked on the little things to help make themselves better, which in turn made the team better. And they all got along. There is absolutely zero egos on this team.”

Tutor agreed.

“Before this season started we set some goals. Before this season started we knew we wanted to be competitive and make a run at the state championship,” said Tutor. “All the girls practiced hard and showed dedication to the team, and it all paid off.”

While associated with Keizer Youth Sports Association, Tutor said the Lady Celts are a traveling tournament team. The girls practiced three times weekly and played tournaments every other weekend.

Earlier this season the girls earned tournament titles in Canby, Keizer (twice) and Play for the Cure in West Salem. At Junction City, the girls reached the championship bracket against 12U teams, but the tournament was called because of rain.

A more daunting task awaits as the girls are headed to Tucson, Ariz. for the nationals.

“Continuing to do the little things,” said Kinler when asked the secret to a long run in the desert. “As I tell the girls, ‘the boring part of softball.’ Hundreds of ground balls, hundreds of swings, hundreds of throws. We don’t do anything fancy. We just play fundamental softball.”

The national tournament was held in Salem last year. The girls competed, but they didn’t win a game. Tutor expects things to be different in 2010.

“We’re going to be very competitive,” said Tutor, who added the team’s pitching is on par with the nation’s best.

A trip to nationals has been on the girls’ minds for months. And their fund-raising efforts will racket up a bit as they have car washes and dollar drives planned for their immediate future.

Donations are also being accepted. Checks can be addressed to Keizer Lady Celts and sent c/o Sarah Tutor, P.O. Box 20404, Keizer, 97307.

“The team appreciates all the support and help they received throughout the season from their parents and from the community. The dedication everybody showed was great,” said Tutor. “This dedication, along with the dedication showed by the girls themselves, is what got us to the point of winning a state championship.”