FORT SILL, Okla. – Staff Sgt. Kenny Turlington went 5-for-5 with four home runs to lead All-Army to a 23-8 victory over All-Air Force in the gold-medal game of the 2013 Armed Forces Softball Championships, Sept. 19.
“I just wanted to win the gold,” said Turlington, a 13-year Army veteran from Goldsboro, N.C., who is stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. “All I thought about was winning.”
All-Army (8-1) needed only five innings to defeat All-Air Force (6-3) via the 15-run rule and this group of Soldiers became the second men’s team, along with the 2001 All-Army squad, to lose just one game in the Armed Forces Championships.
“Our guys have been showing a lot of resilience,” All-Army coach Victor Rivera said. “I had a good feeling about this year because we got better as we played. I did not realize that we were going to beat them that badly. I expected it to be a dogfight and expected it to go down to the wire, but somehow we came from the chute really strong and they never caught up.
“Normally, by the second or third week [including All-Army training camp], I feel a pulse of whether the guys have it,” Rivera added. “This time, I went into the ninth game and I didn’t have it. But last night I was in my room and I got texts from every player saying, ‘Coach, we’ve got you. Coach, we’ve got you.’ Everybody reassured me the gold medal was theirs, so they went and got it.”
Turlington, who also struck Armed Forces gold in 2008 and 2012, made sure the Soldiers got off to a fast start in the title tilt. The first seven All-Army batters of the game jumped on the first pitch from All-Air Force starter Tech. Sgt. Kirtis Bailey of Hurlburt Field, Fla.
“Being one of the captains and one of the vets, you’ve got to show them how to get it started sometimes,” Turlington said. “I got to come up with really good vets like Michael Dochwat and Dexter Avery. They kind of mold you. It’s just a matter of listening to your coaches and trying to better yourself every year.”
Turlington was joined on the all-tournament team by All-Army teammates Staff Sgt. David Moore of Fort Bragg, N.C.; Sgt. Eric Querry of Fort Hood, Texas; Spc. Jacob Lenk of Bamberg, Germany; and Staff Sgt. Dane Miller of Fort Sill. Spc. Marshall Woods of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, joined the aforementioned on the All-Armed Forces Team that will compete Sept. 27-29 in the ASA Slow Pitch Men’s Class A National Championships in Ridgeland, Miss. Rivera and Dochwat will coach that squad.
Sgt. 1st Class Lee Diaz, a native of Miami, Fla., who is stationed at Fort Hood, was the other All-Army team captain in his 10th season. Dochwat, who played 11 years in the program, was an assistant coach this time, representing host Fort Sill.
All-Army took control of the five-day tournament by scoring 14 runs in the sixth inning of its second meeting of the week with All-Air Force, which prevailed 25-24 in their first clash of the tournament Sept. 15. All-Army relied on solid defense in steady rain to rally from a 21-10 deficit to a 24-21 victory over All-Air Force on Sept. 17.
“It was a mud hole, actually, when we scored all those runs,” Turlington said. “It was really bad. In between the sixth and seventh innings, they brought in more dirt so we could finish the game.”
All-Army coach Victor Rivera liked the way his team battled the elements and opponents.
“I told the players when we beat the Air Force in that second-game turnaround, that was my gold medal because of the way they won,” Rivera said. “I told them this was their legacy, that this was their gold medal, not mine. I told them just to go on and get it, and they got it.”
Earlier in the day, All-Army rallied from another 11-run deficit for a 23-16 victory over All-Marine Corps.
“The motto I used this year was “teamwork, team-building, fun,” because if you notice the roster, this is a brand-new team,” Rivera said. “Dochwat was the 2012 Army Athlete of the Year, but he’s an assistant coach this year. Avery is deployed. Clayton Shaw could not make it this year. This is a new leaf, but these young guys are showing the resilience of not quitting.”
The next day, All-Army prevailed 26-11 over All-Navy and 25-16 over All-Marine Corps. All-Air Force kept in step with a 20-14 victory over All-Navy and a 24-20 conquest of All-Marine Corps.
Staff Sgt. David Moore, an outfielder from Miami who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., batted .625 with nine homers runs and 22 RBIs through All-Army’s first eight games. In the finale, he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, and scored four runs.
Sgt. Eric Querry, a native of Cocoa Beach, Fla., who is stationed at Fort Hood, did most of the pitching for All-Army and helped himself at the plate with eight home runs. Spc. Jacob Lenk, a native of Thompson, Ohio, who is stationed at Bamberg, added 10 homers and 21 RBIs.
The Soldiers played solid defense throughout most of the tourney.
“This is the best defensive team I’ve ever had, by far,” Rivera said. “It’s not even close. We used to be known for being smashers, but these guys played defense.”
Shortstop Pfc. Jedon Matthews of Camp Casey, South Korea, played two seasons in the Chicago White Sox’ minor-league system.
Second baseman Sgt. 1st Class Vernon Walton of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., via Abbeville, S.C., completed his doctorate degree in education while in the Army. He hit the game-wining homer that lifted All-Army over All-Air Force in the turnaround victory on Tuesday.
Turlington has played center field, right field, second base, five-man and pitcher during his six-year All-Army softball career. Along the way, he evolved into a bona-fide power hitter.
“He went from a bunch player to an elite player this year,” Rivera said. “We made him a team captain, he took a lot of responsibilities, and he took the leadership role and raised his game probably to the highest level he’s ever played.”