Local women softball players ranked in top U.S. teams

 PHOTO PROVIDED    Local members of the Fun Bunch, a top-ranked senior womens softball team in the U.S., include Sandy Cavin of Englewood, Connie Kennedy of North Port, Pat “Stevie” Stephenson of Bradenton, and Nina Mielecki of Englewood. Karen Campbell, bottom left, of Venice plays for Freedom Spirit.

PHOTO PROVIDED
Local members of the Fun Bunch, a top-ranked senior womens softball team in the U.S., include Sandy Cavin of Englewood, Connie Kennedy of North Port, Pat “Stevie” Stephenson of Bradenton, and Nina Mielecki of Englewood. Karen Campbell, bottom left, of Venice plays for Freedom Spirit.

ENGLEWOOD — Sandy Cavin, Nina Mielecki, Connie Kennedy, Pat “Stevie” Stephenson and Karen Campbell have a few things in common — they’re top-ranked national softball players and all play in Englewood for the Senior Women’s Legends Softball League.

“I think this is great that we have five ladies from this area and we come out on top,” said Cavin, who founded the Legends League.

Cavin, Mielecki, Kennedy and Stephenson play on the Fun Bunch softball team, the No. 1 ranked team nationally in the 65-andolder age category with the Softball Players Association, according to their first-base coach, Englewood resident Tom Mielecki. They have a 22-game winning streak, dominating opponents by an average of more than 10 runs a game, Tom said.

Campbell plays for the Freedom Spirit national team in Clearwater, Fla. Her team was the first 75-and-older one to win the national championship in their category. Five members of Freedom Spirit are in the National Softball Association Hall of Fame.

The Fun Bunch won a tournament last weekend in Pensacola. They also won in Jacksonville and Palm Springs.

“Our secret is to play with each other, and we don’t give up,” Cavin said. “We’re all patient.”

Cavin, an Englewood resident, started the Senior Women’s Legends League in 2011. It grew from two members to 100 members and six teams this year. The league plays at the Englewood Sports Complex. Players come from Bradenton to Cape Coral. The third season ends May 8.

The Fun Bunch travels for tournaments about 10 times a year. Its season runs from January to November. Thirteen members of the Fun Bunch play in Florida, with seven core members who travel the country. Nina is the only Fun Bunch player from Florida who is a core member, Tom said.

Nina, an Englewood resident, has played competitive travel ball in Kentucky since she was 12.

“Playing ball gives us something to do, and we get to travel all over the country,” Nina said. “We have to pay our own way. We really love playing the game.”

Kennedy, a North Port resident, participates with the team only when they travel to Florida.

“It’s a really neat and fun bunch of ladies,” Kennedy said.    The national team and the Englewood league are both slow-pitch leagues. Kennedy helped Cavin start the Legends League.

Stephenson, a Bradenton resident, became an All-American and was inducted to the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame in September.

“It’s great to be recognized by my peers,” said Stephenson, who travels with the Fun Bunch nationally. “Everyone is supportive of everyone else. Teamwork helps us win tournaments.”

Stephenson earned her nickname, “Stevie,” because there were three other “Pats” in the Englewood league. She also plays in senior men’s leagues.

“I find my skills make me very competitive,” Stephenson said. “Men’s baseball is bigger, so I don’t hit as far.”

Sign-ups for the Senior Women’s Legends Softball League are being accepted for the summer season, May 22 through July 24. All skill levels are welcome. The only age requirement is that you turn 35 by Dec. 31. For more information, contact Cavin at 941-661-4555 or sandy  cavin1@yahoo.com

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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