USA Patriots edge Madison Academy, but lose tough game to Redstone

The USA Patriots amputee softball team led Redstone after three innings of their exhibition game Saturday at Madison Academy.

But Redstone rallied, took the lead and held on to win 12-8.

“They’re tough,” Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts, Redstone’s coach and second baseman, said of his team’s annual opponents. “They come out to play.”

USA Patriots, consisting of former service members who had lost limbs in combat, edged Madison Academy 14-13 in the opener of the two-game showcase.

“It was a great time as always,” Counts said. “Just being able to take the field with those heroes is an honor and a privilege.”

Trailing 4-2 after three innings, Redstone rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth. Stephen Dix put them ahead to stay with his two-run hit for a 5-4 lead. Dix went 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and two runs scored.

“From all the softball I played this year this is my favorite one to come out and play in,” Dix said. “Just the camaraderie with our team and just playing against combat-wounded warriors, just to see them out here playing.”

Tybo Butler, the cleanup hitter, went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs batted in and a run scored.

“It’s just an honor to be here, to get a chance to participate against these guys,” Butler said. “And I knew they were going to bring a competitive team. So we just tried to put up runs each inning and stay on top and make them play from behind. And that enabled us to come out with the victory. And once again, it’s an honor and we appreciate it. And we appreciate everything those guys have done for our country.”

Counts and Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey Smith, the assistant coach and third baseman, had two hits apiece. Johnny Stephenson, Marius Dockery and William Butler each added two hits. Michael McGilton pitched all seven innings for the win.

“It’s great Americans out here,” first baseman Col. John Jones, the former commander of Redstone Test Center who will officially retire in May, said. “This is the best time of the year. It’s really the most meaningful. I think everybody on our team looks forward to this very day.”

Cody Rice went 4-for-4 with two doubles, one RBI and a run scored for the USA Patriots (1-1). Rob Vande Zande went 3-for-3 with two RBIs while Rick Wilk was 3-for-4. Randy Tedder, the pitcher, had two hits and two RBIs. John Mitchell, Brynn McGuire and Brent Nadjadi had two hits apiece.

“This is my favorite event every year because the people here in Huntsville, they’re the nicest. They treat us like family,” Wilk, the second baseman from Houston, Texas, said. “This is the best rehabilitation that you can have.”

“Today was awesome,” Mitchell, the third baseman from Mooresboro, North Carolina, said. “I hate losing with a passion. But I’d rather lose to a team that can beat me.”

The Norfolk, Virginia-based team has players from throughout the country. USA Patriots was the home team for both games.

“I thought we played hard,” USA Patriots coach Randall Raper, from Hackleburg which is in Marion County, said. “It’s just hard for us in this type of weather to play back-to-back games and be fresh every game. But I’m proud of how the guys played. They played hard. We didn’t let down. We just didn’t hit the ball as hard as we did the first game.”

In the opener against Madison Academy, Saul Monroy went 4-for-4 with two RBIs. Rice and Vande Zande had three hits apiece. Tedder pitched the win.

Collin Brasher went 3-for-4 for Madison Academy. Troy Mitchell, the assistant Madison Academy baseball coach, also had three hits but took the loss.

“I’m a little too old but you see guys missing an arm or a leg, how can you say no?” Mark Mincher, the Madison Academy athletic director who had two hits, said. “These guys are just amazing. It’s a great day.”

The Association of the U.S. Army, Redstone-Huntsville chapter’s Young Professionals was the event host.

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