The East Surry 11-12 Little League All-Stars are headed to the Southeastern Region Little League softball tournament July 24-28 in Warner Robins, Georgia.
The team defeated the Stedi-Creek All-Stars out of Cumberland County 10-4 for the state championship on Tuesday night at Wilkes Central High School.
East, which has won three 11-12 All-Star state titles, heads into the tournament with a 6-2 record.
“Out of the 11 girls we have, nine are eligible to come back next year, so we are a very young team,” head coach Brent Jones of East Surry said. “Our defense and pitching have really been able to help us out a lot. Our bats have gone cold from time to time, but the defense has backed up the pitching well.”
Coming off a District 2 championship win over Rowan County, East beat Wilkes County in its first state tournament game on at North Wilkesboro. After losing their first game on Tuesday evening 8-6, they bounced back in the second game of the double-elimination tournament — breaking away from a 3-3 contest to win by six runs.
Jones said he got strong pitching from Maggie Holt in a winning effort. Holt was also 4 for 4 at the plate to lead the team. He said Anna Kate Badgett, Ally McCraw and Madison Upchurch came up with clutch hits.
“Grace Kiser pitched a good game the first game, but we didn’t play good defense at the beginning and never could recover,” Jones said. “In the second game, our defense was a lot sharper…every girl during that last game reached base one way or another.”
Jones noted that many of these players have been together for several years — which also showed up in the team’s recent district tournament title win.
“They just find a way to pull each other through it,” Jones said. “They don’t seem to get rattled.”
East had another 11-12 team reach the regionals in Florida several years ago. That team finished fourth.
The format for regionals is double-elimination. East Surry will have a first round bye and then play the South Carolina-Virginia winner on July 25 at Little League Southeast Park. Teams from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia will also be represented.
Last year’s state champion was Wilkes County American Little League. The 2013 Southeastern Regional champion was Virginia.
“They deserve it. They’ve practiced a bunch,” Jones said. “A lot of early morning practices.”
The state championship team is Maggie Holt, Anna Kate Badgett, Allie Bruner, Grace Kiser, Ally McCraw, Madison Upchurch, Tynlee Jones, Leah Hayes, Morgan Smith, Abbie Koons, and Brooke Hege. The coaches are Brent Jones, Scott Bruner, and Daniel McCraw.
This year’s Little League Softball World Series will be held at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Ore. Aug. 7-13.