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Bluegrass Airmen named softball champs

Kentucky's 123rd Airlift Wing team was named the 2010 champions atfter sweeping the Air National Guard Coed Softball tournament in Panama City Beach, Fla., Aug. 11-15. The team beat six previously undefeated teams to claim the title. (Courtesy photo)

Kentucky's 123rd Airlift Wing team was named the 2010 champions atfter sweeping the Air National Guard Coed Softball tournament in Panama City Beach, Fla., Aug. 11-15. The team beat six previously undefeated teams to claim the title. (Courtesy photo)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 123rd Airlift Wing Coed Softball Team was named the top team in the Air National Guard after sweeping a tournament in Panama City Beach, Fla., Aug. 11 to 15.

To win, the Bluegrass batters had to best six previously undefeated teams of the 16 competing units. In their final game, they bested Ohio's 178th Fighter Wing, 22-16. They defeated their foes with a combined score of 106 to 58.

According to team coach, Master Sgt. Ralph Barney, an information technology specialist for the 123rd Communications Flight, the squad won on the backs of powerful hitting and a strong defensive work ethic.

"We were playing a lot of very strong teams. We came in with a great chemistry. We're good friends for the most part. We played together and things fell into place," Sergeant Barney said.

The sergeant has coached the team for more than five years and has been playing on the squad since 1985. He said it was the first top finish for a Kentucky team since he's been playing. In 2008, Kentucky finished second in the tournament. In 2006, they came in third.

"When we go out, we're carrying the Kentucky name. We're going out with everything this unit stands for," said Senior Master Sgt. Greg Lucas, an airfield services specialist with the 123rd Contingency Response Group who was named one of the team's MVPs at shortstop. "We do the best we can to be good sportsmen and to represent the unit well.
People don't want to play us because we go out and win, but win or lose, they know we're going to be good sports about everything."

According to Sergeant Barney, the team is always looking for players both for national competition and in local leagues where they compete throughout the year. Playing gives Airmen the opportunity to become more familiar with unit members off duty and builds camaraderie. Members, their families and even retirees are welcome to participate.

"I'm extremely proud of our Coed Softball Team who've been trying so hard over the years to bring home the gold and now they have had success," said Col. Bill Ketterer, interim 123rd Airlift Wing Commander. "It's always exciting to be associated with a winning program, so a special thanks goes out to the team for bringing home the gold and the national recognition to the Kentucky Air National Guard."