After the death of his brother, Donnie, last week, Wade Morgan wasn't planning on managing the Orphans of Kenai in the Alaska State Women's Division E Tournament Saturday and Sunday at the Kenai ballfields.
Morgan missed the Orphans' first game of the tournament on Saturday, but then he showed up for Saturday's second game and something special happened.
"The reception the whole team gave me was just so warm and encouraging, before I knew it I was back there managing again," Morgan said. "It was great. It helped me take my mind off of things for a while.
"I'd just like to thank everyone at the tournament, and my team in particular, for what they did for me."
With Morgan at the helm, the Orphans stormed to the tournament title undefeated, finishing up the matter with a 14-5 victory over Arby's of Kenai in Sunday's championship game.
"I'm definitely glad I came and did this," said Morgan, whose parents, Dick and Shirley, also came to take in a few tournament games. "I'm feeling a lot better."
While the Orphans -- so named because their sponsor abandoned them at the beginning of the year -- were pleased with the tournament title, they also were just as happy with spending an afternoon together and helping out their manager.
"I'm glad we could do something uplifting for him," said Orphans left fielder Molly Hull. "Winning the tournament was just a bonus.
"We enjoyed getting together as a group of girls. Wade being here and winning the championship made it all a nice package."
Although the Orphans swept through the only other tournament they entered this year, they were far from a driven, hard-core unit. Team member Julie Wheeler said the team decided it was only going to devote one night a week to softball at the beginning of the summer.
"We're not really serious about practicing," Morgan said. "Everybody's here more because they like being with the group."
That camaraderie is what carried the Orphans to the title. Morgan said they never utter a negative word toward each other, no matter what the mistake. Wheeler added the team has an uncanny knack for having different people every game step up with clutch offensive performances.
And at the center of it all is Morgan, who according to Wheeler is the only manager that could put up with the team.
"When you get a group of 30-something and 40-something ladies, let's just say there's a tendency to forget a man is around," Wheeler said. "I think, in self-defense, Wade just kind of blended in.
"I think a lot of men would have high-tailed it out of there."
The Orphans high-tailed it out of the gate in Sunday's championship game, taking a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Arby's cut the lead to 6-3 in the top of the fifth, but the Orphans came back in the bottom of the inning with three runs.
Daniela Martian, the tournament MVP, was 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored in the game, while Lori Manion was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs. Hull also made the defensive play of the game, diving to stab a fly ball in the top of the seventh.
"When you stick your glove out, it's amazing what can fall in it," Hull said of the play after the game.
Dana Cannava was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run for Arby's in the championship game.
Brenda Phillips, Sharon Thompson, Hull and Manion were named to the all-tournament team from the Orphans, while Judy Wroe, Theresa Gallego and Cannava received the honor for Arby's.
Also making all-tournament were Jeneen Wheelock, Myrlene Wheelock and Suzan Bast of third-place Oasis of Fairbanks, and the mother-daughter team of Sherry and Melissa Anderson of the fourth-place Misfits of Kodiak.
Katrina Stanford of Arby's made off with the golden glove award.
There were 12 teams from the tournament from places as far away as Kotzebue and Valdez. Rainbow Bar, the third team from the Kenai Peninsula Softball Association at the tournament, finished with a 2-2 record.
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