OKEECHOBEE — The Darlings 8 & Under Coach Pitch Softball team are district champions and headed to compete in the state tournament on July 11-14 in Bellview, Fla.
The Darlings earned their ticket to the state tournament thanks to two back-to-back victories over the Whaneta All-Stars in the district tournament on June 21-22.
Darlings head coach Adrian Baker says his team had to overcome an early deficit to secure the victory.
“The opposing team got ahead of us and they thought the game was over,” said Baker. “But I just kept talking to the girls, kept their confidence up and let them know the game wasn’t over.”
Whaneta jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first few innings, but the Okeechobee Darlings kept their composure and stormed back to win 11-8.
Baker says his team is still learning to play together as a unit. The girls all played on different teams throughout the Okeechobee Citizens Recreational Association (OCRA), and were brought together to compete against other all-star teams throughout the state.
“Whaneta came out swinging like they wanted the trophy, but our girls were hungrier,” said Baker of the district tournament. “When we practice, we practice to win and that came through in that game. I know that the girls have been in situations like this before, just not all on the same team. But they came together pretty quick.”
With the state tournament still two weeks away, that should give the Darlings even more time to gel as a team.
“We going to work on game situations,” said Baker of the preparation the team will go through before the state tournament. “It’s going to come down to what plays we can make in the in-field. We just need to get three up and three down on defense and not let anything get by us.”
Baker also made sure to thank the parents of the Darlings players for their support in the district tournament.
“I have to give a shout-out to the parents for cheering on the kids and keeping their confidence up,” explained Baker. “Their support kept the kids focused and let them know what they could do and what they’re capable of.”
The Dixie Girls Florida Softball Tournament is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on July 12 at the Bellview Sports Complex in Bellview, Fla.