Staff Sgt. Dante Love
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The All-Air Force women’s softball team achieved perfection in the Armed Forces Tournament Sept. 19-23 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
Air Force finished 9-0 in the tournament to win the gold medal for the first time since 2014. Combined with the team’s scrimmage record during training camp, Air Force finished an amazing 21-0.
“Their mentality and focus was indescribable,” said team coach, Senior Master Sgt. Danielle Hirvela of the 5th Force Support Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. “They never got too far ahead of themselves, and they focused on the task at hand.”
Hirvela, who was an assistant on last year’s bronze-medal winning team, praised the team’s competitive balance.
“I wouldn’t say anybody was a surprise (standout) because they showed what they’re capable of doing,” Hirvela said. “That’s why they were on the team.”
A 20-3 victory in four innings over the U.S. Marine Corps to open the tournament set the tone for the Air Force. Yet there were two games that tested the Air Force’s resiliency.
In the third game against the U.S. Army, last year’s tournament champion, Air Force led 9-6 before Army scored three runs in the top of the fourth to tie the score. However, the Air Force responded with timely defense and offense to pull out the 13-10 victory.
Air Force clinched the title after beating the U.S. Marine Corps 24-6 in the seventh game, but the U.S. Navy almost ruined Air Force’s plan for perfection.
Down 11-8 after the fourth inning, Air Force rallied to take a 12-11 lead after the fifth. Navy tied it at 12 after the sixth inning, but Air Force scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
The Air Force capped off its perfect tournament with a 12-0 win over Army in six innings.
“The feeling is overwhelming,” said Tech Sgt. Schameka White of the 43rd Operational Support Squadron at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina.
White was a member of the past 10 All-Air Force women’s teams and said this was her last time playing for the Air Force.
“I want the younger generation to come in and keep it going,” said White, a first baseman. “I’ve really enjoyed this group of players and I’m just really glad we brought the trophy back to the Air Force.”
Third baseman 2nd Lt. Carmen Fowler of the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada; pitcher Airman 1st Class Megan Hinds of the 392nd Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Airman 1st Class Kennedy Houser of the 959th Medical Operations Squadron at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston; and Senior Airman Hayley Nuno of the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Fowler, Hinds, Houser, Nuno, Staff Sgt. Erica Schroeder of the 96th Aerospace Medical Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida, and White also were named to the Armed Forces Team that represented the military in the annual USA Softball Association’s national championship Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Oklahoma City.
Hirvela and assistant Senior Airman Larry Bandy of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Yokota AB, Japan, coached the team, which advanced to the championship game. Houser and White were named first-team All-Americans.
After earning the silver medal last year, the All-Air Force men’s team finished 1-8. The Air Force averaged more than 30 runs a game, but couldn’t capitalize on its breaks, said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Harris, First Sergeant/8F Functional Manager with Air Education and Training Command headquarters, JBSA-Randolph, Texas, and men’s team coach.
“If you would tell me we would be averaging 30-plus runs a game and be 1-8, I wouldn’t believe you,” Harris said. “The guys played hard. We just couldn’t get it done.”
It’s not the outcome Staff Sgt. Dante Love, noncommissioned officer in charge of manpower for the 36th Medical Support Squadron at Andersen AB, Guam, envisioned.
However, Love enjoyed his experience playing on his first All-Air Force team.
“It’s just been good meeting guys from other career fields and picking their brains not just softball-wise but career-wise,” said Love, a shortstop who played baseball in junior college and spent time in the minor leagues. “I’m also bringing back an improved mental mindset in how to deal with pressure situations.”
For Chief Master Sgt. Chip Campbell, it was a bittersweet ending. Campbell, a pitcher playing on his fourth team, is retiring from the Air Force, but was grateful to play one last time.
“It’s obviously very emotional to be here and be selected again,” said Campbell, a career field manager at Headquarters Air Force, Pentagon. “I’m not young by any means, and to make the team with all these young guys is an awesome honor and opportunity to play the sport I love. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my military career, except maybe winning the gold medal.”
Tech Sgt. Johnathon Brock of the 46th Medical Support Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, was named to the All-Tournament team, but didn't play in the national championship because of military obligations.
The U.S. Army finished 9-0 to win the Armed Forces Tournament for the sixth consecutive year.
For more information on Air Force sports, visit www.myairforcelife.com/sports.