The girls of summer

One philosophy was not better than the other. Just different. Chuck Ludlow was very clear about that. Don't jump to any conclusions. Don't stereotype. Ludlow has coached boys in baseball and girls in softball. He said he can't treat each gender the same.

"I read something from Mike Candera (University of Arizona and U.S. Olympic softball coach) that made a lot of sense to me," said Ludlow, who lives in Petaluma. "He said, 'Girls need to feel good to play good. Boys have to play good to feel good.' I can't beat a girl down and then build her back up. I have to build her up and then leave her there."

It would appear Ludlow's heavy lifting is over because of this feel-good sentence: The girls on his Easton Elite Under-18 team will compete next week in the 2013 ASA/USA Softball National Championship tournament in Clearwater, Fla. As compliments go, this is pretty much a standing ovation. The Easton Elite will be one of 62 teams competing for the national championship in the double-elimination tournament. It is only the second time, Ludlow said, that a girls softball team from Sonoma County has made it to nationals, the other being the Cal Haze 14 years ago.

The Easton Elite? National Champions? How does that sound? To the four players who were asked that question Wednesday, the immediate response was non-verbal. A straight-ahead stare. It was like asking, What would you do if Buster Posey asked for your autograph?

"Just to say the words," said Courtney Ludlow, Chuck's daughter and a pitcher-first baseman from Casa Grande.

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