July 9th, 2019 12:00 PM
Pythons players and coaches celebrate winning the Oak Park Village Championship. (Submitted photo)
After finishing the regular season with an impressive 12-2-2 record, the Pythons played even better in the postseason by winning five games in a row to claim the Oak Park Girls T-Ball championship.
In the village championship series (best 2 out of 3), the National League champion Pythons defeated the American League champs in a two-game sweep.
"We had some really experienced returning players and first-year players who took to the game really well," Pythons coach Mike Camacho said. "That gave us defensive depth across the field and a pretty strong batting lineup. The girls also really backed each other up out on the field.
"We just drilled the fundamentals constantly, but I believe the true reason for the team's success was that our players believed they could win."
All-stars Hanna Connor, Brooke Castonguay, Meena Sood and Amelia Camacho led the Pythons. Connor hit multiple home runs and triples en route to earning offensive MVP honors for the postseason. The other three all excelled defensively. Camacho, the team's postseason defensive MVP, also hit a grand slam and for the cycle during the season.
In terms of player nicknames, Sood is the runaway winner.
"We call her 'Double Play,'" Mike Camacho said. "Meena got that nickname for a reason. She has a nose for knowing where the play is going to be and she turned double plays at critical moments during the season. In short, there is no championship without 'Double Play' Meena."
Other notable contributors included Maddie Papier, Ellie Schneider, Audrey Demes, Caitlin Reale and Rosemary Morrick.
"Maddie is a great player with a great bat," Camacho said. "Ellie made fantastic stops defensively all season. Audrey was often our leadoff hitter because she provided the spark we needed to fire up our offense. Caitlin is just a great heads-up player and excellent third basemen, while Rosemary has tremendous speed and hits well to either side of the field."
First-year players Violet Johnson, Avery Naughton, Alayna Javed and Charlotte Connor developed quickly for the Pythons.
"All four of them played fantastic and picked up the game well," Camacho said. "By the end of the season, they were stopping hard-hit grounders and turning them into outs. They also hit very well and had some great base running."
Quality depth also existed on the coaching staff. Along with Camacho, Pete Connor, Alan Papier, Sandeep Sood, Justin Demes and Chris Castonguay coached the Pythons (17-2-2), who also won the Oak Park Village Championship in 2017 with Hanna Connor, Meena Sood and Maddie Papier and repeated their winning ways this summer with individual and team growth. The girls on the team range in age from 5 to 8.
"We enjoyed seeing the players come together as a team this season," Camacho said. "At this level, many kids have never played any type of organized team sports. My fellow coaches and I had a front row seat to watch the players develop individually and as a team which was pretty cool."
He also credited the Pythons' cheering section, the "Snake Pit."
"The nickname is a term of affection for our supporters," Camacho said. "It's not only made up of our current Python families, but often previous Python players and parents who come out to cheer on the team. The 'Snake Pit' runs deep; once you're in, you're in."