Encore? Softball team has World Series dreams

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jul 16, 2019 at 5:51 PM

Daniel Boone made a name for itself on a national stage in 2018, and it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

But the Gray team set it sights on an encore, and is a handful of victories away from getting it done.

Boone won the Little League Softball state championship over the weekend in Charlotte, Tennessee. The victory qualified the team for the Southeast Regional, which begins July 25 in Warner Robins, Georgia. The winner of the regional earns a berth in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon.

Manager Lori Jenkins said she believes the girls are ready for the next step.

“Considering we won the Southeast Regional last year, I feel like the confidence level is high,” she said. “We know what to expect. These are the best of the best teams. We will have to be on our A game — pitching, hitting and defense — to be able to compete. Hopefully we will.”

The championship is July 29 at 10 a.m. ESPN+ will stream all games in the regional tournament. The service is subscription-based, but a seven-day free trial is offered. Visit plus.ESPN.com for information.

The Little League Softball World Series is scheduled for Aug. 7-14. Last summer, Boone made it to Portland and earned a pair of victories before finishing fifth in the world.

To make a return trip, Boone will have to navigate through state champions from Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and West Virginia. Boone opens play July 25 at 11 a.m. against South Carolina.

Eight players from the 2018 team are back: Riley Croley, Josie Jenkins, Kyleigh Bacon, Ava Saul, Kayleigh Musser, Sadie Henson, Lillie Walters and Anna Richardson.

Jenkins said the state title was especially important to these girls, who won their fifth consecutive crown.

“This was their last time trying for it, and they were striving for the five-peat,” said Jenkins.

Five new players were added to this year’s team: Kenzie Bacon, Katie Sparks, Addison Dietz, Taylor Brinn and Matti Phillips. All of them were on Boone Little League’s 10-year-old team last year.

“The girls have this composure, and they know they have to perform,” said Jenkins. “They always seem to be so together and confident. We really don’t have to say much to them.”

Boone defeated Clarksville early in the event, but under a new format the Gray team had to beat Clarksville again in a winner-take-all final. Boone won 5-3 on Sunday night, getting the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with an impressive 4-6-3 double play.

The regional tournament will be a double-elimination format.

Jenkins will be assisted by coaches Steven Croley and Freddie Saul.

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