Former softball team remembers national win


Megan Cunningham

Teammates of AACC’s 2003 softball team pose for a photo 20 years after winning the national championship.

Megan Cunningham and Dan Elson

Pitcher Tina Willis Johnson struck out the final batter in the AACC Pioneers final softball game of the 2003 season to win the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship before the players stormed the field in joy and tears.

 Johnson and her teammates this year are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their win, the last time an AACC softball team took home a championship trophy.

“I remember all of us crying,” former captain Christina Bounelis Barrett recalled of the team’s 9-6 win against College of DuPage of Illinois. “It was kind of like, ‘Hey, we gave our whole summers to this [and our] whole life.’ We ended it on a national championship win.”

First baseman Stephanie Stoll’s and Barrett’s fathers, Kenny Stoll and Bob Bounelis, were both assistant coaches for the team. 

“We were all so emotional, and I know it was because I was with my dad,” Barrett said. “I know Steph Stoll was with her dad. And these men deserve this championship just as much as we did. … I gave my dad a huge hug at home plate.”

Barrett, the team’s third baseman, added: “The coaching staff was dynamite, and they all knew us. They knew us our whole childhood, too. My dad was a coach and who can say their college coach was their dad?”

Stoll, a paralegal, called the championship squad a “family.”

“I played with pretty much every single girl that was on that team since I was young,” Stoll, who attended Glen Burnie High School, said. “The whole entire infield besides the shortstop was [on] my high school team.” 

The Pioneers—now the Riverhawks—finished the 2003 season with a 37-7 record, including regular and postseason games.

Johnson said the season was intense. 

“We fought, we laughed [and] we cried,” Johnson added. “Everybody would practice hard. We enjoyed being on the field together all the way through the championship.”

Bounelis noted the squad “believed in each other. So it was a great team of belief.”

Johnson, who was the fourth-ranked pitcher in the NJCAA, finished with a 22-4 overall record and a 0.96 ERA. She struck out 232 batters in 139 innings and won MVP in the national championship tournament. Pitcher Denise Schulteis went 21-1 with a 1.14 ERA. Schulteis had 100 strikeouts in 148 innings. She led the team with a .441 batting average and stole 19 bases—which also led the Pioneers. 

Second baseman and right fielder Dawn Vacek Jernigan’s first reaction to winning it all was “Holy s—, we did it.”

Former softball assistant coach Bill Henderson said the team had “high quality players.”

“A lot of times when you have those types of players, there’s always conflict because everybody wants to be the top dog, but not with this team,” Henderson said. “This team worked together from Day 1. … They went out and they played their tails off each and every game to get to the Nationals.”

Former softball head coach Don Bishoff finished 169-71 in his career. He passed away in June 2008 from colon cancer. Bishoff earned Coach of the Year in 2003. He also took the team to Nationals four other times. 

He “was a wonderful guy and we’ve known each other for 10 years because of our girls actually playing against each other,” Bounelis noted.