The Pine Bluff American-Eastern 11- and 12-year old Little League softball team takes the field at 8 tonight in the Southwestern Regional Tournament in Waco, Texas, with aspirations of building on the recent state title it captured in Piggott last week.
American-Eastern coach Tony Resinger said the squad is prepared to face competition from across the nation, starting with Eastdale Little League of Albuquerque, N.M.
“We have a lot of dedicated girls that have spent the past five weeks working hard to prepare for this,” Resinger said. “We have been hitting in the cage, pitching and working on defense. I am very pleased with the way they have pulled together.”
Resinger’s squad breezed through the state tournament, beating Piggott in a best-of-three series 11-6 and 13-1. Resinger said the pitching duo of Haley Gifford and Crystal McVay proved themselves at the state level and that McVay would get the start in the tournament opener.
Resinger added that the team is solid on defense and also has the ability to hit the ball with Autumn Otwell, Courtney Resinger, McVay and Sierra Johnson being the top offensive weapons.
“We have some really strong hitters,” he said. “And when the bats get hot, everyone on the team can take the ball into the outfield. We are a pretty well-rounded team.”
American-Eastern reached regional action two years ago but failed to win a game in Waco, something Resinger would like to change.
“I am pleased with the way they are performing,” he said. “We have seen some of the other teams and believe we can compete with them.”
While the 11- and 12-year-old group competes in Waco, the American-Eastern 13- through 16-year-old Little League team prepares for its Southwest Regional opener in Pineville, La.
Pine Bluff coach Lola Johnson said she has had very little time to prepare her team.
“We have only played three games,” Johnson said. “And those were against 18-year-old teams. We didn’t do very well in our first game but played better the last two.”
Johnson said the challenge was getting the girls to play together as a team after being competitors during the regular season.
“And you have to keep them focused. They have a short attention span at this age so you have to stay on top of them pretty good,” she said.
Johnson said Shelby Roberts would be in the circle for Pine Bluff’s first game against Silver City, N.M., with Cessily Johnson and Kylyn Kemp in reserve.
Offensively, Johnson cited leadoff hitter Angelique Sargent as the catalyst.
“She is a great leadoff hitter,” Johnson said. “If she doesn’t hit the ball, she draws a walk. But she is always on base. And she has a lot of speed so when she gets on she is a threat to score.”
After Sargant, Johnson will send Kemp, Annabeth Meyer, Johnson and Shariyah Stubbs to the plate in an effort to produce offense.