Boger City Sweetees ready for big stage in Mississippi
By RYAN HERMAN
Twelve young girls are about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, but this trip isn’t a vacation, it’s all about business.
The Boger City Optimist Sweetees 6-under all-star softball team will depart Lincoln County on Thursday, and make its way to Bay St. Louis, Miss., to compete in the inaugural Dixie Youth 6-under Sweetees World Series. The tournament begins on Saturday following Friday’s opening ceremonies.
The all-star team won its second straight state title earlier this month, but last year that was the end of the road.
This year there is a 650-plus mile trip and a national stage involved, and the girls are ready for the challenge. So much so that 6-year-old Whitney Newell used one word to describe what she’s looking forward to most.
“Win,” she said.
The team, made up of Akira Connor, Lorelye Turbyfill, Whitney Newell, Grace Parker, Gabby Parker, Alexis Rector, Breanna Childers, Raegan Allen, Aidyn Armstrong, Bailey Hollar, Taniyah Thomas, Aniston Moore, and coached by head coach Kevin Newell and assistants Adam Turbyfill, Derek Allen and Stephen Parker, held its final practice at Boger City Optimist Park Tuesday evening.
The road to Mississippi began with a district title, followed by a state championship win on July 8.
Game 1 of the tournament will take place early Saturday, and will involve Boger City and the state champion from Tennessee. Also represented are state champions from South Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, and the host team, Bay St. Louis.
Kevin Newell, who coached last year’s Boger City Optimist Sweetees state title team, has watched all 12 of this year’s all-stars put in the necessary effort and time to return home victorious, and he’s planning on them cashing in.
“We’re going down there to win,” he said. “We’re going to go down there and give it 100 percent.”
Newell said this year’s team has reached the pinnacle of its season with a hard-nosed defensive approach, and for that reason alone he isn’t worried about a newly-implemented world series rule –– coach pitch.
The girls hit off a tee through the state tournament, but have since been practicing with Newell softly tossing them the ball.
They caught on to the new skill rather fast, Newell said, but if for some reason they fail to hit this weekend, he feels his defense can pick up the offense.
“It’s still a bit of the same fundamentals. … Most of them have made the adjustment,” he said. “You’re still playing the same age-caliber girls. We have a strong defense, which has carried us all season.”
When 7-year-old Aniston Moore was asked what she like most about playing softball, she echoed her coach’s defensive sentiment.
“I like fielding, and catching the balls,” she said.
The team is the second straight Boger City Optimist softball team to play in a Dixie Youth world series –– the 8-under Darlings finished fourth in its respective world series last August. Newell’s oldest daughter, Emily, played in that event, which was held in Louisiana.
This summer, Newell is coaching his youngest daughter, and 11 other girls who, for many, picked up a softball bat and glove for the first time this spring.
Aniston is one of those girls, and she’s already hit 12 home runs this season. And that’s because she’d rather be outside playing softball than inside doing things other 7-year-olds do, such as watching Disney’s “Frozen.”
“The majority of these kids want to be out here doing this,” Newell said. “They listen great, when you get down on their level. We’ve got a good group of girls, we really do.”
Meet the Sweetees
Head coach: Kevin Newell
Assistants: Derek Allen, Stephen Parker, Adam Turbyfill