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Green Country Little League Softball Wins World Series Championship – Presented by RT&T Cycles

Written by Bill Huddleston

I am invincible, unbreakable, 

Unstoppable, unshakeable

They knock me down, I get up again

I am the champion, you’re gon’ know my name

You can’t hurt me now, I can’t feel the pain

I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win

I am the champion…

When writing the song, “The Champion”, Oklahoma’s own Carrie Underwood wanted to celebrate athletes at the top of their game. The 2018 hit is also a song that resonates today in the lives of the 13 members of the Green Country softball team and coaches who not only became the first Oklahoma team to ever reach the Little League World Series for softball but also won the championship in convincing fashion. 

While going undefeated in pool play, the Muskogee-based athletic squad including girls from Oktaha, Hilldale, Wagoner, Woodall, Preston and Oklahoma City in their lineup, outscored their opponents 42-6, posting three shutouts and winning the title with a 9-1 verdict over Chesterfield, VA in the winner-take-all Little League softball finale.

Eighty percent of the team’s players and coaches are affiliated with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Kiowa and Muscogee nations. The roster was a perfect combination of athleticism and class. “We started this in 2019 when we got a team to the regionals in Waco, TX, then Covid hit,” said team manager Johnny Hutchens, who joined Hayleigh Galvan and Tailee Reding to coach the team. “We had 25-30 kids try out and were fortunate to get this special group together. All of the girls either played summer ball with or against each other but best of all they were all friends before coming together as an all-for-one, one-for-all team.”

As the words from Underwood’s song say…it’s all about who wants it most and the Green Country squad was all in. “These kids have a lot of grit. They played with an absolute refuse-to-lose mentality,” explained Hutchens.

Another boost to the team’s success came from knowing whom they were playing for as the LLWS fan base grew across the entire state. “It was a big honor that we got to represent our state and our hometowns,” explained Juliana “Goose” Hutchens, now a seventh grader at Wagoner who became the first player ever to hit a home run in the Greenville, N.C. stadium and the ball will be part of the stadium’s Hall of Fame. “Knowing we had everyone watching and pulling for us created an unbelievable sense of confidence.”

Hilldale eighth grader Lilly Beverage, one of four players on the 2019 squad that now owns the championship medal, admits this year’s team was something special from the beginning. “We clicked from the first time we practiced. We understood that each one of us had a job to do,” said Beverage who played left field in the finale. “We were a family that supported each other, no matter if you were in the game or waiting your turn to go.”

  

The offensive talents were obvious but the defensive approach set this group ahead of the rest. “Our roster was interchangeable at every position allowing us to put the ball in play at the plate, hit for power, and take an extra base,” said Hutchens.  “First and foremost, they were all focused on playing error-free defense. We also had four or five girls that could get the job done in the circle.”

Zoie Griffin, the starting pitcher in the championship contest and whose ability to command her pitches kept hitters off balance, defines the all-for-one approach of the dream team from Oklahoma calling it a business trip with a little bling. “It was fun but it was all about staying locked in. All the phone calls, texts and messages while we were there made us all feel like we couldn’t be beat. It helped us all so much,” explained Griffin, now a seventh grader at Wagoner. “I’ve picked up my medal lots of times and thought about those moments. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

Oktaha’s Mileigh Needham, who caught the ball for the final out while playing first base, confirmed the business-like approach of the team. “When other the girls were swimming at the hotel, we were setting up nets and were hitting or playing catch. We were there to win not just have fun. We’re having our good time now after we won the championship,” said Needham. 

“There was no I on this team.”

Needham, who is already dreaming of her high school career and playing for a state championship with the Lady Tigers, echoes the thoughts of her teammates when confirming that winning the championship opens the door for the future of other teams in Oklahoma.  “We wanted to set the bar for any girls that dream of playing in the Little League World Series. Anything is possible when you’re willing to work for it.”

And there’s one more reason that Oklahoma can be proud of this team according to coach Hutchens. “They’re not just softball players. They are great kids who happen to play softball. A team who became a family and created memories for life for themselves and all of Oklahoma.”

That’s what “real champions” are made of.

GREEN COUNTRY OKLAHOMA

Juliana Hutchens

Mileigh Needham

Lilly Beverage

Aubree Davis

Taylan Starr

Zoie Griffin

Cambri Casey

Kandace Burnett

Riley Dotson

Shianne Dill

Alexis Kierstead

Ailanee Hicks

Aleigh Tucker

Head Coach: Hailey Galvan

Assistant Coach: Tailee Reding

Manager: Johnny Hutchens

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