E.A. Sports Today

Still unbeaten

Ward 10 (La.) teams in good shape after second day of Dixie Softball World Series at Choccolocco Park

By Al Muskewitz

East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – It may be an expensive proposition in the end, but Ward 10 (La.) Dixie Softball president Gordon Frye wouldn’t mind seeing four title trophies going back to Tioga with his teams this week. And at the rate they’re going, it’s entirely possible.

All four Ward 10 teams at Choccolocco Park, including Frye’s Ponytails X-Play squad, remain undefeated after two days in the Dixie Softball World Series. The Angels (10U), Belles (15U) and Ponytails X-Play (12U) are all 2-0, headed into their bracket’s battle of unbeatens and have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 104-11.

On Sunday, the Angels edged Wayne County, Tenn., 6-2; the Belles beat Belleview, Fla., 11-5 in a contentious game; and the Ponytails X-Play took down Paxton Area, Fla., 14-1. Their fourth team, the Sweeties (6U), won the first game of their best-of-three series with Around The Lake, Fla., 33-30, and will go for the sweep and their Series championship Monday at 11 a.m. 

“That’d be nice to have four trophies and four billboards in our ballpark,” Frye said.

That is an ambitious goal. Since 2000, the most titles any one league has brought back from the Series is three (2013 Alexandria National Ponytails X-Play, Belles, Debs). Six leagues have brought back two since 2014.

“Everything here has been going fantastic,” Frye said. “We couldn’t ask for anything any better.”

The program’s success here isn’t just some luck of the draw. The Tioga teams may actually have come in an advantage over the teams they’re playing.

While many communities across the country shut down recreational activities due to COVID-19 concerns, Ward 10 actually played what amounted to a regular season. All their teams played at least 10 games, so their all-stars may be a little more battled tested than many of the others here.

“These girls have worked really hard,” Frye said. “We fought and fought and fought in Louisiana. Because of COVID-19 they shut our ballpark down like three or four times, but my parents were reluctant, I was reluctant, we never game up. We fought and fought and fought and finally got to open the ballpark up June 29 and were still able what we thought was a complete season, have our closing ceremonies and pick these all-star teams.

“I think it has helped us a lot. Even though these girls have all played on different teams throughout the season, they’ve all grown up in Ward 10. All these girls you see who are 13-15 started in Ward 10 when they were 4 and 5. With us getting together to play during the season I think it gives us a little bit of an advantage.”

And they know about winning. Four players on Frye’s Ponytails played on the Ward 10 teams that won back-to-back World Series titles in Darlings (2018) and Angels (2019). Its only other World Series title in the 2000s was the Belles in 2001.

The Belles on Sunday scored four runs in the first, but the next inning Belleview coach Roger Kaylor lodged a protest regarding Ward 10 listing a documented injured player in the official lineup card and bypassing her spot in the lineup effectively batting out of order. The protest was heard by on-site officials while the game paused and Belles Commissioner Mickey Snell after the game. It was denied both times.

Ward 10 coach John Troquille said he just “did what they told me” in terms of making out his lineup. Kaylor was not happy with the decision, but said his team would return Monday to play its way through the loser’s bracket. “We’re going to come back and we’re going to try to win it,” he said.

When play resumed, Belleview rallied for three runs to get within 4-3. But Ward 10 bounced back with three in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the seventh. Anya Brown had a RBI triple and two-run inside-the-park homer in the two late-inning rallies.

The road doesn’t get easier for the Ward 10 Belles. They will play an Around The Lake team from South Florida that has scored 32 runs in its two victories.

ATL opened a 10-0 lead on Wahneta, Fla., in the fourth Sunday, but couldn’t close out a run-rule victory. Wahneta closed within 10-8 in the home fourth on Breonica Aguilar’s two-run double, but ran itself out of potential tying runs and got no closer. Preslynn Baker helped ATL regain a comfortable margin with a two-run triple in sixth. Baker is one of four players on the squad who played on Okeechobee’s Darlings Series runner-up team in 2015.

“I think we’re sitting in a good spot,” ATL Belles coach Preston Baker said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll come through. We started out good and had two bad innings, but after that we woke up again. We calmed them down and told them to keep their head in the game and stay strong.”

The ATL Debs got another strong outing from pitcher Haley Underhill. The incoming freshman at Indian River State College threw an immaculate inning in the first of her two innings Saturday and threw five strong innings to close Sunday’s 10-5 victory over Lake Marion, S.C. She had two-strike counts on 16 of the 22 South Carolina batters she faced.

“Haley knew up front what we expected,” coach Kim Hargraves said. “She was the No. 1 pitcher in Okeechobee at the high school so she knew coming into this she would be our No. 1 as well. She also knew I wasn’t going to come up here and throw her every single inning. A lot of girls who have graduated could have gone on and said no, we don’t want to play this summer, we just want the summer off. Haley thankfully didn’t do that. Kind of wanted that last hurrah with the rest of us, too.”

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