E.A. Sports Today

Mission: Accomplished

Crawford County Debs put it all together to win their first World Series title, second for Georgia in fast pitch

By Al Muskewitz/East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Kryssi Maddux, M.K. Mason and their Crawford County (Ga.) teammates have been trying to win a Dixie Softball World Series championship for as long as they can remember. They’ve come close before – they were Belles runner-ups last year – but Wednesday they finally put it all together.

Behind strong pitching, some alert base-running and one slick fielding play, the Middle Georgians edged Around The Lake (Fla.), 4-1, to win the Dixie Debs championship at Choccolocco Park and create a little history.

It was the first Softball Series title for the league, which has been playing Dixie ball for decades. Even more historic, they became only the second team from Georgia to win a fast-pitch Series title and just fourth in the 45-year history of the event.

Baldwin County won an Angels fast-pitch title in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2014. The state also produced champions in the now-defunct slow-pitch platform in 1994 (Cochran/Bleckley Belles) and 1999 (Camden County American Debs).

“It’s very exciting because I’ve had most of these girls since they 8 years old,” manager Todd Youngblood said. “We’ve gradually gotten better every year. This is our fifth World Series. Last year we were runner-ups in the 15U and we ran out of pitching. This year we felt like we were going to be here and to finish it off was just amazing.”

Four players on the team – Maddux, Mason, catcher Rylie Youngblood and outfielder Kennadi Rozier – have been through all of it.

“It’s very exciting because we’ve been trying for so long and we all stayed together,” Mason said. “We’ve matured a lot over the last five years and I think we really deserve winning this championship.”

The champions got it done from every conceivable angle.

It started in the circle. Maddux gave up two singles, one unearned run and struck out seven in the six innings she had left to pitch under tournament rules. She faced two batters over the minimum through five innings and didn’t allow a runner past first base.

Mason had two hits, including an RBI triple in the fifth to break a scoreless tie, and turned a nifty first-to-home double play in the sixth (for the second time in the tournament) to cut down the tying run at the plate.

“Kryssi struggled yesterday,” Youngblood said. “Her ball wasn’t moving at all so they (Lake Marion, S.C.) hit her real hard. For her to put that behind her and come back today was a good thing.”

In her defense, she was having a back issue and a video review indicated she was moving faster than normal. She iced the back, slowed her pace and in the championship game was as sharp as ever.

“My confidence went up,” Maddux said. “When he told me (Wednesday morning) I was starting I had to get the mindset that I needed to do better than yesterday, so that really motivated me.”

Around The Lake ace Haylee Underhill, who started the tournament with an immaculate first inning on Saturday, was sharp, too. She gave Crawford County all it could handle for the four innings she had left to pitch. She gave up three hits, struck out four and stranded two runners in scoring position.

The champions finally broke out against reliever Haisley Kessler in the fifth. Cason Chance got it started with a one-out single, Mason tripled her home into left field and she scored on Ashley Nelson’s grounder to the circle.

The South Floridians scored in the sixth when Jacqueline Pearce reached on an error and scored on Marysa Farmer’s RBI single. Mason’s double play cut down Jacee Jumper with the potential tying run at the plate and Crawford County got out of the inning without further incident.

“On Day One (against Cherryville, N.C.) she had this same play and turned her back to home plate and was late getting the throw to the plate,” Youngblood said. “We talked with her about it and since then she’s thrown two out at the plate.”

“I always know go to my base and go home,” Mason said. “That was a very big play.”

Crawford County loaded the bases with its first three batters in the seventh. Maddux got caught in a rundown between third and home after a wild pitch, but the throw behind the advancing runners sailed into left field allowing two insurance runs to score.

With Maddux out of innings, Youngblood put the seventh the hands of Dana Walker and she set the Floridians down in order to get the victory celebration started.

“We’ve been at this for a while,” Maddux said. “We’ve been trying to be the top team for like six teams now. To get it feels amazing. We’re on top. We got it.”

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