American-Eastern starts regional quest

While many baseball and softball teams go through district and state tournaments, the Pine Bluff American-Eastern Big League Softball team already has a regional spot in tow.

Because of a lack of Arkansas teams in the 14- to 18-year-old division of Little League Softball, American-Eastern gets to represent the state this weekend in the Southwestern Regional in Jonesboro, La., south of Monroe. The Pine Bluff squad will take on the Texas East representative at 8 p.m. Friday.

James Bridges, one of American-Eastern’s coaches, said his team is going into the regional “undermanned” because most of the other teams have 17- to- 18-year-old players, adding he’ll be pleased if Pine Bluff can get a win. It would need to win three times without a loss in the first two games to claim the championship.

“We’re young,” Bridges said. “Call me next year and year after, and I would think we have a chance to win the regionals.”

Team manager Todd Prather said the other states involved in the regional, Texas, Louisiana and Colorado, have a bigger pool of talent than Arkansas, which will also make the regional challenging.

“We’re just going to get the girls together, have some fun and try to win some games,” Prather said.

Many of American-Eastern’s players participated in varsity ball at Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel and White Hall high schools. The players include Jamie Bridges, Kaylee Ford, Maegan Greer, Natalie Johnson, Sierra Johnson, Kialandrea Kilpatrick, Samantha McCain, Leigha Prather, Jordan Runion, Aungelique Sargent and Makayla Wilkinson.

“I’ve been coaching 25 years, and I’ve enjoyed this group as much as any other I’ve been around,” Bridges said.

Friday’s winner will advance to play either Texas West, Louisiana or Colorado at 7 p.m. Sunday. The championship is scheduled for Monday.

Bridges announced American-Eastern Little League will offer softball training to players ages 4-18 in the fall at Monroe-Ryburn Field, but a date is yet to be determined. Members of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff softball team will assist with the camp, he said.