Perry Youth League prepping for Dixie softball World Series

Sun News correspondentJuly 31, 2013 

SPECIAL TO THE SUN NEWSPerry celebrates its Dixie Youth League state championship this month in Milledgeville. Standing, left to right, Coach Brian Bearden, Logan Alford, McKayla Conner, Chris Alford, Kaitlyn Albritton, Grayce Bearden, Eden Davison, Tarah Lawson, Maleah Flournoy, Lizzi Neal and Mike Kelly. Kneeling, Leighann Colvin and Madyson Kelly.

PICASA

PERRY -- Getting there is half the fun.

So it’s no surprise to see smiles on the faces of the Dixie Youth softball 15U Georgia champions as they bus tables and greet customers at a local fast-food restaurant. The trip to Alexandria, La., won’t come cheap. There are hotel rooms to book and gas tanks to fill. So for the time being, fundraising takes precedence over practice.

It’s all good, however. Players and coaches still work toward a common goal. That’s what really matters.

“We understand that to win you have to be a team,” centerfielder Lizzi Neal said. “You’re not going to go anywhere in life if you can’t work with other people.”

The team, comprising all-stars from the Perry Youth League at Oklahatchee Park, swept the competition at the Dixie state tournament in Milledgeville earlier in the month. The all stars won three games by a combined score of 61-6, defeating a team from Crawford County in the final.

“We knew we had a good chance to win because there were only three teams, but they shocked us with the way they played,” said Chris Alford, one of three team coaches.

As a result, Perry earned a spot in the Dixie Youth softball World Series for its age group -- also known as the Belles Division. The tournament runs Friday-Aug. 7 and will feature champions from 10 other Southern states, many of whom have a terrific softball pedigree.

“We expect stiffer and tougher competition, but I think we’re going with the attitude we’re gonna compete and do something special,” Alford said.

The trip to Alexandria represents a return engagement for three of Perry’s players. Grayce Bearden, Leighann Colvin and Eden Davison qualified for the 2009 World Series as members of a 12U team. That squad lost twice in the double elimination format and came home.

“I’m hoping it will change since this is last year with (Perry Youth League),” Davison said. “I want to go out there and win it.”

Win or lose, the bulk of Perry’s team members will miss the first few days of school in Houston County. Their absences won’t be counted against them so long as they aren’t yet registered in the school. In that regard, the trip extends summer vacation. That’s not all good, however.

“I’m missing (Perry High School) softball tryouts,” Madyson Kelly said.

Perry plans at least a 10-vehicle caravan to Alexandria with somewhere between 30 and 50 friends and family members. Local businesses have been generous in helping defray the cost of the trip, but the group is still about $10,000 shy of matching expected expenses. As a result, the team spends more time fundraising than practicing.

“I’d rather be fundraising,” Neal said. “This way, our parents don’t have to cough up all that cash.”

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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