WARNER ROBINS -- A moment of silence was held Saturday at opening day ceremonies of the Warner Robins American Little League in honor of two sisters who lost their lives after a two-vehicle crash Wednesday.
Leslie Sullivent, an 11th-grader at Veterans High School, and Bridget Sullivent, a sixth-grader at Mossy Creek Middle School, both were beloved members of the tight-knit Little League community, WRALL coach Matt Coffee said.
Leslie, who was on her high school’s softball and soccer teams, played senior league softball during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In 2009, she was coached by her father, James, whom everyone calls, “Sullie,” and with the help of her brother, Damian, said Scott Winner, vice president of softball at WRALL.
Winner, who coached one of the opposing teams, said he and Leslie used to heckle each other in fun during the games.
She was a catcher and played third base, as well as some outfield, he said.
“She was just tough as nails,” Winner said.
Bridget, known for her “exceptional” pitching abilities, played on the Diamond Dawgs, said Coffee, her coach. Coffee also coached her on last season’s 9- and 10-year-old All-Star team that finished second in the state tournament.
He was also her regular coach that season, as well as the year before. She played in the league two seasons prior to that, he said.
“She was the most talented athlete I’ve ever been around,” Coffee said.
Coffee knew both of the girls, having met Leslie when Bridget was nine.
“She was just the most upbeat person,” Coffee said of Leslie. “I never heard her say anything negative. She always tried to find the good in everything.”
Coffee recalled how Leslie was always helping Bridget with her pitching.
“She was always trying to build her up,” Coffee said. “She was the ultimate big sister.”
Leslie was known for helping others improve their game, Winner said. And both sisters loved softball and church, he said.
“If you found Bridget, you’d find Leslie,” Winner said.
Coffee shared a story relayed by a parent of one of Bridget’s teammates about Leslie, who often helped out.
Brittney Cox, the team’s 11-year-old shortstop, was initially having trouble hitting the ball. But Leslie stepped in and taught her a little trick designed to keep the player’s head on the ball by putting your shirt sleeves in your mouth, Coffee said.
“I’d never heard of it before,” said Coffee, whose been playing baseball since he was 4. “After everybody was gone, I tried it myself, and it works!”
Bridget was known as a “park rat” because she was always at the softball field, Coffee said.
When both sisters were playing at different times, Bridget would be at the softball park until late at night because she wanted to watch her sister play, Coffee said. And Bridget was always at the field, as was Leslie, to hone her pitching skills by watching others, he said.
Like her sister, Bridget also watched out for and helped other players. Bridget would help players who maybe didn’t start out as the cream of the crop to become all they could be, Coffee said.
“She was a coach on the field,” Coffee said.
She was also a cheerleader, leading chants and cheers for hours on end.
“She wanted to make everybody feel better,” Coffee said. “She wanted to make everybody feel like an all-star.”
‘Last bit of glory’
At the first game for Bridget’s team, which may be rescheduled from Monday to Wednesday, teammates are planning to wear special team patches on the right side of their jerseys with the No. 7 with a halo in her honor. Her name is also expected to be included on the team’s roster, which will mean an automatic out but also the calling of her name over the loud speaker.
“I just want to give her that last bit of glory on the field,” Coffee said. “I think she’d like that.”
Also, a permanent memorial is expected to by added to the WRALL complex in honor of the sisters, and special remembrance patch with Bridget’s team number 7 is expected to be distributed to all WRALL softball players, Winner said.
Visitation is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Second Baptist Church at 2504 Moody Road, Warner Robins, Winner said. The funeral is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Second Baptist, he said.
Edited Monday, March 14: The Sullivent Memorial Fund has been established to help the Sullivent family with unexpected expenses. Checks can be made out to the Sullivent Memorial Fund. Donations are accepted at any local CB&T Bank, according to a Houston County schools news release. The account was created by Kelly Segars, who works in the school district with the Sullivent's mother, Melva.