One team dominated. The other played comeback kids.
Now both are headed to the youth Southeast Softball Regionals.
The North Myrtle Beach All-Stars in the 14- to 16-year-old Senior League claimed the state championship Saturday with a 10-3 clinching win over Fair Oaks out of Easley in the best-of-three championship series, and the Carolina Forest Community Center 9- to 10-year-old Minors Softball All-Star team claimed the S.C. title with a 16-13 win over Irmo in the double-elimination tournament in North Myrtle Beach.
North Myrtle Beach punched its second straight ticket to the Southeast Regional Senior League tournament scheduled for July 27-Aug. 1 in Fort Myers, Fla. And like a season ago, the squad did it in dominating fashion, sweeping Fair Oaks after winning 10-0 in the first game of the series played in Easley.
“They played good,” North Myrtle Beach coach Kelly Johnson said of his team. “We’ve got a strong group. They’re young but they’re strong. Over half of them played on last year’s team that played in the Southeast Regional. They are more experienced and they are better this year.”
Johnson expects his squad to be better prepared for this year’s regional after failing to win a game in its trip last year.
“I think being there last year makes a big difference. Just basically the shock and awe of it from last year, having the red carpet rolled out and the fast-paced nature of photo shoots and news media sidetracked them a lot,” Johnson said. “Now they know how to handle being in the limelight of that situation. It won’t be so shocking to them.
“We’re just a stronger team than we were last year. Last year we were just happy to be where we are. This year we’re going there to make a dent. We’re there to win this thing.”
Carolina Forest, meanwhile, had to win four straight elimination games to earn a berth in the regional. After losing to Irmo in its opener, Carolina Forest rallied back from a 9-1 deficit to survive in its second game, rolled in their third contest and then topped Irmo in back-to-back games that were tied after five innings.
“They were very resilient,” Carolina Forest coach Frank Endres said. “We lost the first game and were down 8-1 after two innings in the second game. We were pretty close to being done. … We hit well the whole tournament. They fielded the ball very, very well. They never got down on themselves. We essentially had four straight elimination games where it was win or go home.”
Endres said his team appeared to be hitting its stride late in the tournament, which could pay off as the squad heads to Luray, Va., from July 26-30 for the Southeast Regional Tournament of Champions.
“I think the last two games they played as well as we thought they could play,” he said. “Even if things don’t go well, they don’t get down on each other. All the players on the team are very supportive of the girls. … They are able to handle adversity very well and keep battling. That’s sort of our [motto] when we huddle up: It’s ‘1-2-3 battle.’ And they really did these last three or four games. I think that sets them up well for a tournament with very good teams.”
Both teams are accepting donations to help fund their trips.
For information on how to help the North Myrtle Beach team, call Shannon Fries at 455-0324. To help the Carolina Forest squad, email firstname.lastname@example.org, post on the team’s Facebook page (2012 CFCC Girls 9-10 Year Softball All~Stars) or contact the Carolina Forest Community Center.