After rolling through the first five games of the USFA World Series undefeated, the 10U Chain Lynx ’04 travel softball team out of Warner Robins felt confident about its chances to bring home the title.
But playing a team out of Arkansas, Chain Lynx swiftly came upon its first and final stumbling block of the tournament -- back-to-back losses of 9-1 and 11-1, which resulted in a second-place finish.
“I think the girls kind of put the cart before the horse,” said Jeff Jackson, the team’s manager. “We’re undefeated, we’re in the championship, and those girls from Arkansas were ready to play ball.”
The World Series took place last month in Panama City Beach, Florida, at Frank Brown Park as Chain Lynx participated in Class B fast-pitch softball. Forty-eight teams from 13 different states took part to determine the USFA champion, and through the first five games, Chain Lynx looked like the team deserving of the honor.
Based on their accomplishments throughout the season, Chain Lynx earned the fourth seed in the World Series. Jackson likened the seeding of the bracket to the NCAA basketball tournament bracket as teams earn points throughout the year by playing in other tournaments.
Traveling in the Southeast from Florida to Tennessee, Alabama and in Georgia, Chain Lynx won eight times -- including the Southern Mizuno Classic in Valdosta that offered double the amount of points -- and placed third once during its 2014-2015 trek. And that includes “playing up” in several tournaments.
“We played up to push our girls,” Jackson said.
In three tournaments in which the team played at the 12U level, Chain Lynx went undefeated twice and placed third out of 16 teams in another.
Playing against teams in its own age group, the team honed its abilities. Chain Lynx faced no troubles in its state tournament in Carrollton, winning all of its games in order to qualify for the World Series.
“(A state title is) pretty big because we have to compete with all of the Atlanta teams,” Jackson said. “They’ve just got way more kids than we can pick up.”
But the team didn’t stop there. At the World Series, Chain Lynx immediately faced a battle with the South Illinois Dirt Dogs in the first round, but it triumphed 5-2 after four extra innings in a game that lasted three hours; the tournament usually limits games to 1 hour, 15 minutes, but a winner had to be named.
“It was a fight,” Jackson said. “(The girls) fought to the last minute.”
Chain Lynx then won 9-0 in the second game and beat “Game On ’04” -- another team out of Middle Georgia -- 5-1 in the third round
“In the travel softball world, for these young girls, to make the Elite Eight is huge,” Jackson said. “And to actually place in it is gigantic.”
In the quarterfinals, Chain Lynx faced High Intensity out of Florida and survived in a 2-1 game. The semifinal game was not quite the battle -- a 16-2 victory over Texas Turn2 propelled Chain Lynx into the title game.
But the championship game didn’t go as planned. In two games, the team was outscored 20-2 by a team Jackson called “very, very, very, very good.”
The team’s roster was made up of Celena “CC” Luna, Chloe Jackson, Ella Rieske, Adelaide Moss, Camryn Stokes, Riley Little, Olivia Taylor, Ainslee Forsythe, Isabella Moss, and Kaitlyn “KK” Hallman. The coaches are Jackson, Brian Stokes, Damian Moss, Russell Rieske and Sarah McPherson.
“Honestly, it was not disappointing at all. Our goal was to just make the Elite Eight, because it’s really hard to make it there,” Jackson said. “Coming home second and being that close to first, yeah it was a little bit disappointing, but no, not really. Even just to make the Elite Eight is huge.”