It was as nice a sky, and as brutal a heat, as can be imagined in north Florida in mid-June, but the girls and young women were up for playing ball.
At last weekend’s Dixie Youth Softball tournament, held at Will Kendrick Park and Sports Center just east of Carrabelle, teams from Franklin County, Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, Marianna, Cottondale, Sneads and Blountstown battled it out to see who were the bosses of the basepaths, the premiers of the plate and the foremens of the field.
In the end, Wewahitchka took two of the divisions, the Ponytails X-Play and the Bells Traditional, so they’ll be bringing those district titles when they head to Hosford July 8 for the state tournament.
Franklin County took two as well – the Darlings and Angels X-play – so they too will be headed to Liberty County for the post-July Fourth state tourney. Marianna was triumphant in the Angel Traditional Division.
For the youngest girls, the age 5 to 8 Darlings, it was a highly competitive affair from the start, beginning with three games Friday evening. Wewa downed Cottondale 19-7 in the opener, followed by a narrow 7-6 win by Marianna over Port St. Joe, and a 21-10 shelling by Franklin County over Sneads.
On Saturday morning, Cottondale was headed to a 12-7 extra-inning win, when Marianna protested that the player who stands in the pitching circle (it’s coach pitch ball) had exceeded her maximum of five regular innings and just one extra inning. The protest was upheld and Marianna remained in the winners bracket.
The other Saturday morning games saw Port St. Joe ousting Wewa from the tournament with a 17-0 shutout, but then falling to Sneads 11-6 to find themselves also heading west, out of the tourney.
In the afternoon, Marianna fell to Franklin County 18-8, which went on to say undefeated with a 14-3 win over Sneads.
On Sunday morning, Cottondale downed Marianna 9-5, setting up a championship game under the blazing sun. Franklin County downed Cottondale 18-5 to go a perfect 4-0 for the tourney.
Jeff Faircloth, the Dixie Youth Softball’s state umpire-in-chief, said Cottondale has been extended an invitation to the state as the Darlings’ runner up.
In the Angels Traditional, for girls ages 9 and 10, which limits the use of pitchers, Marianna battled Port St. Joe for the title, and won it with a 20-0 shutout Friday and a 12-1 win Saturday morning.
Faircloth said that in order to ensure there are at least three teams at state, Port St. Joe has been extended an invitation to compete in Hosford.
In the Angels XPlay, which allows pitchers to be used to whatever extent the coach wants within an 11-inning maximum, and allows for base-stealing, Franklin County downed Wewa 12-3 Friday evening, and then shut out Blountstown 24-0 Saturday morning.
In the afternoon, Blountstown defeated Wewa 20-9, setting up a Sunday afternoon championship in which Franklin County downed Blountstown 19-9.
In Ponytails X-Play, for girls 11 and 12, which has rules just like middle school softball, it was quite a competitive affair from the start.
On Friday, Marianna beat Port St. Joe 16-11, and Franklin County edged Wewa 23-10.
On Saturday. Franklin County downed Mairanna in the morning, and Wewa defeated Port St. Joe 20-3. In the afternoon, Wewa had to down Marianna 17-7 to advance to Sunday’s championship.
It was then, under the blazing heat, that Wewa took the title after fighting out of the losers’ bracket. The first game was an extra-inning affair, as Wewa won 6-5 in seven innings, and the nightcap was a 22-9 win by Wewa.
The young Gators will head to Hosford as champions, and Franklin County as runners-up.
In the Belles Traditional division, for girls age 13 to 15, with rules the same as high school softball, Wewahitchka defeated Franklin County twice, 30-5 Friday and 22-5 Saturday to take the title.
Franklin County has also been invited to play at the state tourney in Hosford, and will serve as the host team, since Liberty County does not have a Belles team.
Taking part in that division also will be teams from Belleview, West Pasco, Okeechobee and Sebring.
Faircloth said he was again pleased by how well Franklin County conducted the district tournament at Kendrick Field, which also has been the site of the state tournament in years past.
“I thought the recreation board from Franklin County did an excellent job,” he said. “It’s that way every time. They have everything set up and it runs perfectly.
“The weather was perfect, but it did get a little hot, but you could go over and cool off at the spray,” Faircloth said. “I think Fonda (Davis) and his crew do a wonderful job. The fields were in good condition as always.
“That recreation board, Scott Kelley and David Paul, they had it set up,” he said. “It was nicely done.”