The thrill of knocking off perennial power Warner Robins in the Georgia District 5 softball tournament is still fresh in their minds, but the Western Little League all-stars were back at work this week, preparing for the state tournament that starts this weekend at the Rabun County Recreation Center in Clayton.
Coach Brent Griffin said he is confident that the Western players will be ready to play after beating Warner Robins, which won the Little League World Series in 2009 and 2010 and had a long string of state tournament appearances prior to Westerns 4-3 victory July 2.
Its been a great week of practice despite the rain, Griffin said. These girls are not satisfied with just beating Warner Robins. They believe that they can go farther, and thats the attitude we want them to have.
Since we are the ones that knocked off Warner Robins, we know that teams will be gunning for us, and well have to play our best to get through the state tournament.
Western was able to beat Warner Robins twice in the district tournament, both times riding the strong pitching of Holly Phillips.
She had two great games, and we backed her up with excellent defense, Griffin said. We were hearing that Warner Robins had won the tournament for something like 10 straight years. After we beat them the first time, we had a good feeling that we could beat them again. We know we have played some great competition to get where we are.
Phillips is the probable starting pitcher when Western opens state tournament play at 2 p.m. on Sunday against Toccoa.
Hannah Griffin, Madison Powell and Marilynn NeSmith also will be counted on to provide the punch in a strong lineup.
We got timely hits from everyone on our roster, and that will have to continue for us to be successful, Griffin said.
The winner of the state tournament advances to the Little League Southeastern Regional, scheduled for July 26-30 in Warner Robins.
We are thinking about playing well in the state tournament, but we really havent talked about making it back to Warner Robins that much, right fielder Taylor Osborn said. I am sure that some of us have thought about it, but we know we just have to keep getting better to have that chance.
The team of 11- and 12-year-olds is not the only one from the Western Little League enjoying a successful summer. The 9- and 10-year-old softball team also will be in Clayton, playing in the state tournament after defeating Warner Robins in the district tournament.
The 9-10 team, which also opens at 2 p.m. on Sunday, is having to deal with the loss one of its top hitters, Janya Jones, who was injured during a sliding drill this week at practice and will not be available for the state tournament.
It took the air out of us for a day, and its a big loss for us, but we still feel like we can have a good state tournament, coach Rodney Darley said. We are a very strong defensive softball team, and if we can put some runs on the board I think we can do well.
Westerns 9-10 team will rely heavily on pitcher Bailey Caldwell and the middle infield combo of Jaelyn Darley and Courtney Ball. The teams first game is against Elbert County.