UNION COUNTY — The word dynasty comes from the Greek word dynasthai, which means “to be able” or “to have power.” Historically the word dynasty has been used to refer to a succession of rulers of a country that come from the same line of descent. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary also defines the word dynasty as a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable period of time.
The earliest example of the word dynasty being used to refer to a sports team(s) was in a 1905 article in The Washington Post, which referred to “John T. Brush’s baseball dynasties.” Brush owned the Reds and later the New York Giants and built them into dominant teams in professional baseball. Since that time the word dynasty has been thrown around a lot when referring to very successful sports franchises. The New York Yankees have been called a dynasty in many different decades because of their tremendous success and winning a record twenty-seven World Series. Other notable sports dynasties include the 1980’s Lakers and Celtics, the Chicago Bulls of the 90’s, the Patriots of today and the last sixteen years, and Duke Basketball under Coach K just to name a few. Locally we think of teams like Byrnes and the run that football team went on in the early 2000’s.
An argument could be made for the Lockhart Baseball teams of the 70’s that won at one point 37 games in a row and several state titles, and Union Football of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. None of these teams were as dominant though as the Sims High Football Team of the 1950’s who went ninety-six games without a loss and won numerous championships under Coach James F. Moorer.
I think it is now safe to say we can apply that dynasty tag to the Union County High School Softball Team. With their win last Tuesday night the Lady Yellow Jackets claimed back to back 4A State Championships and their fourth title in just five years. The Lady Yellow Jackets have been truly dominant over the last few years at both the 3A and 4A level. Coach Tommy Petty has elevated the program to a truly prestigious place, as Union County Softball is recognized as a softball power all over the State of South Carolina. One sign of a great high school program is players continuing their softball careers at the next level, and many Lady Yellow Jackets are doing that now and several of the girls graduating this year and next will play softball in college.
As Union County continues to graduate and send really good softball players to the next level, it seems like every year they continue to reload. This year’s team will graduate five seniors, all of whom started for the Jackets this season. That means the Lady Yellow Jackets will have to replace five out of nine starters next year, and that’s a tall order. However, if you look down the pipe for the Lady Yellow Jackets the future continues to look bright. Bailey Betenbaugh, the reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year, returns for her senior season, and her dominance in the circle for the Lady Yellow Jackets will continue to impress. Also, this season the Junior Varsity team only lost two games on their way to winning the region crown.
Union County has always had success in softball. Union High School won the 4A state title in the 1979-80 season and then won back to back titles in 4A in the 82-83 and the 83-84 seasons. Union High also finished runner-up in the 90-91 season. So historically the success has been there.
I know that I have said this before a couple of times, but a lot of the success of softball in this town has to be attributed to a strong youth softball program. The Union County Dixie Girls Softball League has done a really good job teaching the girls of Union County how to play the game of softball since its inception in 1983 under the leadership of Mike “Brokearm” Cohen. As the number of wins and titles continue to grow for the Lady Yellow Jackets it is important to remember all these coaches who helped these girls fall in love with the game of softball at a young age.
Union County Softball is a dynasty. If we go back to the Greek word, dynasthai, the Jackets are able, and they definitely have power as one of the elite programs in this state. From the looks of things it looks like they plan to maintain their position as a top program for a while to come.
Union County, South Carolina is a softball town, and we are proud of it.
Congratulations to Coach Petty, the entire coaching staff, and all the girls for another tremendous season of Lady Yellow Jacket Softball. Can’t wait til next year!
Tyler Shugart is the host of “Bump and Run” from 7-9 a.m. on Fox Sports 1400 AM 98.3 FM in Spartanburg. He can be reached at [email protected]