A crowd of more than 200 fans turned out May 28 to celebrate Chipola Softball’s 2019 National Championship.
“This team is among the best to ever wear the blue and gold,” Chipola President Dr. Sarah Clemmons said.
“The key to their success was a true team spirit with every player focused more on the team rather than their individual performances,” Head Coach Belinda Hendrix said. As an example, the team weathered Hurricane Michael together, with many teammates opening their homes to those who had no place to go.
The team clinched the Panhandle Conference championship very early in the season and went on to finish as District 8 champions at the FCSAA State Tournament, earning a berth to the national tournament in St. George, Utah. Chipola defeated Florida Southwestern 2-1 in the Florida FCSAA State Softball Tournament to secure a bid to the national tournament.
The team saved their best performance for nationals, scoring 69 runs in the tournament, including 52 runs in their final three games to bring home the title. En-route to a third national championship, sports-writers ran out of verbs to describe how badly they beat their opponents. Chipola devastated Lake Land 10-2 in the first game. They overcame Temple 7-3 in game 2 to avenge their loss to Temple in last year’s national title game. They trounced Central Florida 15-2 in game 3. Chipola crushed Angelina 18-1 in game 4 and then crushed Angelina again 19-2 in the championship.
Seven players on this team ran up a 56-4 record last year, but fell just short of a national championship. The core group of sophomores helped the freshmen learn what it would take to win at state and nationals. The magnificent 7 sophomores include: Sydney McLain, Jadia Jones, Madison Kent, Lauren Finch, Ally Clegg (defensive player of the national tournament), Amy Woodham (pitcher of the tournament) and Candela Figueroa—MVP and offensive player of the tournament. Over the last two seasons, these sophomores won 108 games and lost only 9 times, with one tie.
President Clemmons also praised the coaches for their efforts, saying, “Championship teams need championship leaders and Chipola has that in the wife and husband team of Belinda and Jimmy Hendrix.” They were named NJCAA Coaches of the year, along with their top assistant Kelly Brookins.
The coaching trio has led Chipola to the national championship game four times in five years. They also won national championships in 2007 and in 2015.
In a perfect ending to the season, Associate Head Coach Jimmy Hendrix made good on his promise to let the players shave his head if they won the title. With “We are the Champions,” playing in the background each player took their turn with electric shears, giving the coach a buzz cut fit for a national champion.