Seeing double: Warwick connections help Nook Softball win two national titles

By on August 8, 2018
Warwick rising sophomore Mackenzie Stewart (far left) and her Spooky Nook 14U Elite teammates (left to right) Maddi Sherrid (Cedar Crest), Brooke Weister (Muhlenberg) and Evan Sherrick (Hempfield) are all smiles with the USA Softball 14U Class B Eastern National championship trophy.

Warwick rising sophomore Mackenzie Stewart (far left) and her Spooky Nook 14U Elite teammates (left to right) Maddi Sherrid (Cedar Crest), Brooke Weister (Muhlenberg) and Evan Sherrick (Hempfield) are all smiles with the USA Softball 14U Class B Eastern National championship trophy.

From her catcher’s position, Mackenzie Stewart had a perfect view for the final out of the game.

And when it was all said and done, the Warwick rising sophomore rushed to the mound to give pitcher Maddi Sherrid a big hug.

It was Stewart’s favorite moment from the USA Softball 14U Class B Eastern National Tournament in York, which her Spooky Nook Elite team won on Sunday, July 29 with a 15-4 win over the Ohio Valley Xtreme in the championship game.

“It was really amazing,” she said. “It was a moment we’ve been waiting for all year and we knew that our hard work finally got (rewarded). It was just really emotional and everybody was extremely happy.”

At the same time — a few hundred miles south, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. — the Spooky Nook 18U Gold team was just as emotional, having clinched the Triple Crown Sports East Coast National title, beating Team Pennsylvania 2-1 in the finals.

That capped a five-day stretch, from July 25-29, in which the Nook Gold went a perfect 9-0.

“It was a crazy time,” said 2010 Warwick product Sam (Derr) Snyder, an assistant coach who was joined on the team by pitcher/designated hitter Amanda Herr (2018 WHS grad) and assistants Doug Herr and Zach Snyder (2008 WHS grad). “It was a long day (Sunday) and a long week, but everything was so worth it.”

Ditto for Stewart, who shared the catching duties on the Nook 14U squad with Hempfield’s Bella Rankin, along with playing one game in the outfield.

In all, four L-L players competed on the team, in addition to Sherrid, of Cedar Crest, and Evan Sherrick, of Hempfield.

Coming out of the winner’s bracket, Spooky Nook was in the catbird’s seat going into Sunday, with two chances to win the title.

But Ohio Valley Extreme claimed a one-run win to force a winner-take-all showdown, then jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Spooky Nook, though, wouldn’t be denied, as they stormed back, getting a grand slam from Rankin, and clinched the win in five innings. In all, Spooky Nook went 7-1 in the tournament and 31-5-1 for the season.

“They had some good pitchers, but with our bats, we came out and hit right away,” Stewart said. “We knew we had a really good opportunity with the players we have, and we work really well together as a team. So we knew we were one of the top teams to beat in the tournament. It was just a matter of playing our best.”

The Nook 18U Gold squad, coached by Lampeter-Strasburg’s Todd Garber, certainly played its best, in no small part due to Herr, who was on the mound for five of the team’s nine wins, in addition to slugging four home runs.

“She went on a tear,” Snyder said.

In all, Spooky Nook (32-3), which also included L-L players Julz and Hanna Garber, of L-S, Gabi Turner (Hempfield), and Brittany Hook (Penn Manor), was one of 73 teams competing at Nationals, representing 15 different states.

“It was pretty awesome rising to the occasion and watching all these other teams from all over the country,” Snyder said. “It was pretty neat having a team from Pennsylvania just killing it.”

Their journey began with two wins in pool play on the opening day, cruising to a 7-0 shutout over Carolina Flames Elite behind Herr and then rallying from a 5-1 deficit in the final inning to prevail 6-5 against the Carolina Wildcats on a walk-off. It was the first of Nook’s four walk-off victories during the week.

“It was pretty cool because because we got to see the players get better as the summer had gone on,” Snyder said. “We talked about doing little things correctly as far as heads-up base running, taking the extra base when we needed to, and making adjustments at the plate. It was a really cool experience playing against that kind of competition that we were able to see all those girls doing the things we’ve been talking about all year.”

Double-elimination games started on Friday, and Herr, a St. Joseph’s University recruit, tossed a 1-0 shutout against Lady Lightning Gold EP Hawkins to get Spooky Nook going on the right foot. The team carried its momentum into Saturday, when Hook pitched in a 3-2 eight-inning victory over Diamond State Swoop 18U — Davis, punching a berth to Championship Sunday.

There, Herr got the ball and slugged a two-run homer in a 5-4 win over Chattanooga Force. It was the first of her three homers in four games on Sunday.

Next, Spooky Nook knocked off the Hanover Lady Knights 5-2 in the quarterfinals behind Hook.

“There were a bunch of teams that were nationally-ranked,” Snyder said. “There were a couple teams that had Division-One high-caliber players. One of (the Hanover Lady Knights’) players was committed to Clemson. It was pretty high-notch players.”

Wildcats Gold was waiting for Nook in the semi-finals, but Herr had a monster game, not only getting the decision on the mound in a 7-4 victory, but crushing a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning.

“It was pretty cool,” Snyder said.

That set the table for the championship game, and Hook was on top of her game in the 2-1 win against Team Pennsylvania, out of the Pittsburgh area.

For Snyder, winning the national crown ranks among her top three softball memories ever, behind only pitching in a 1-0 win and delivering a walk-off base hit in Kutztown University’s Division-Two World Series game against defending champ University of California-San Diego in 2012, and claiming back-to-back conference championships at Lebanon Valley College.

“It’s pretty neat as far as just memories and stuff,” she said, “and that’s why you stay with the sport, in my opinion.”

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