CCLP/TJ MAXWELL - The 8-and-under Rangers, right, and 8U Mariners high five after their semifinal game of the 2016 Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation City League playoffs. The Rangers defeated the Mariners 9-6 before defeating the 8U Angels in the finals to cap off their perfect season at 11-0.

Best of Cove

8U Rangers, 10U The Crush and 12U Dynamite claim softball crown; baseball playoffs narrow the field
Cove Leader-Press
Sometimes in life, the stars align everything perfectly falls into place. That could be said of the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation 8-and-under Rangers softball team.
The young Lady Rangers put together a perfect 11-0 season that culminated with a City League title over the Angels on Tuesday night.
The Rangers outscored their opponents 72-9 in the regular season to earn the top seed in the playoffs and continued that dominance on their way to the title.
“The girls showed up ready to go from day one,” said Rangers assistant coach James Harper. “I’ve never seen a group of girls work so hard in my life and I’ve been coaching for a few years. I’ve never seen it where every single girl holds herself accountable to get better. That’s the point of the league is for them to improve and, as a whole, every one of them got so much better.
“It’s not that we have one or two girls that are really good. We have 12 girls that do their jobs. I’m just really proud of them.”
Harper credits a lot of that improvement to head coach Paul Hartwell, who routinely puts together top-notch teams.
“The way head coach Paul HartSundayswell handled these girls this year, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “He is probably the best coach I’ve ever worked with and that’s no slight against anyone else. That’s just how good he is at what he does. It’s the way he breaks things down fundamentally to learn something new in practice and in games.”
It takes a receptive bunch of players as well, he says.
“They really take to it,” Harper said about Hartwell’s coaching style. “It’s one thing to coach, but to be coached is the other half of that equation.”
Also claiming titles for the girls’ side were The Crush in the 10U division. The Crush were neck-and-neck with the Lady Fury all season with the Fury finishing a half game in front of The Crush at (5-3-1) but it would be The Crush had the last laugh with a 7-2 win over the Fury in the championship game on Monday.
The Dynamite finished the regular season 9-1 atop the 12U standings. The team was riding a nine-game win-streak before suffering a loss in the final regular season game against the Hot Shots but got revenge when the two met in the finals.
On the boys’ side, the National League Astros outlasted the American League Red Sox 9-7 on Tuesday to earn a spot in the 8U semis against the NL Blue Jays, who also earned a two-point win over the AL Twins, 3-1, to advance. The Mariners and Royals each earned lopsided wins over the Athletics and Brewers, respectively to reach to the semis. The White Sox faced the Mariners and the Orioles faced the Royals in last night’s second round. Results not available at press time.
The AL Cardinals and NL Dodgers both pulled out 6-3 to advance to the 10U semifinals on Monday. Also on Monday, the Cardinals downed the NL Marlins while the Dodgers pushed past the AL Padres.
The Athletics earned a 6-0 shutout over the Mets to advance and the Giants squeaked past the Rangers 8-7 for a spot in the semis.
The Cardinals will host the Dodgers on field one and the Athletics will host he Giants on field two for the semifinals on Monday.
The 12U and 14U baseball teams conclude the regular season on Saturday.
For Harper, it’s not about wins and losses at this age. It’s about preparing them for the future and effective summer leagues can really help get kids be prepared for junior high and high school.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It can’t be overstated. This is when they start to learn the fundamentals of the game and the love for the game. This league is what filters up into the junior high and then high school. You want these (kids) to learn how to field and hit properly right now so when they get to middle school the coaches there don’t have to teach the fundamentals and technique. They just add on to it.
“Cities like Belton, their youth program is phenomenal and it shows in their level of play in high school. Towns like Troy and McGregor are ridiculous in their 8U, 10U, 12U leagues and it shows on the high school level. The facts are there that if you have a productive, logical youth league it’s going to improve the middle school and high school programs as well. Probably one of the most important parts of building a high school program is getting the 9- and 10- and 11-year-olds to understand the game before they ever get to that level.”
Another huge part of a successful youth program is volunteers. It’s difficult to find volunteers in a military town where many households have just one parent but Harper says the volunteer numbers are up in Cove and that feeds into their success.
“I give a lot of credit to the volunteers,” he said. “We give a lot of our personal time back to these kids with really nothing in return except the pride of watching the kids get better. I didn’t even have a team because there were so many volunteers. You can see it now where the parents are realizing that without coaches there are no teams and the kids don’t get better. They sacrifice a lot of their time to coach and be there for these kids. Volunteers probably don’t get the credit they deserve for all they do for these kids.”

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