Brent Jackson’s South Laurel 9-10 year-old All-Stars are poised and ready to make a run at the 9-10 Year-Old Softball State Tournament’s championship which begins this weekend at Joe Johnson Little League Park in Columbia.
After reeling off five straight wins, the District 4 champions will have the opportunity to show the remainder of the state just how good they are.
Jackson said he wasn’t surprised to see his team come away with the District 4 crown because he has seen the potential in his players the past few years.
“This has been something we’ve been working for, or pointing to, for quite some time,” he said. “We wanted to get to the (state) tournament. We’ve been working toward this since they were seven and eight years-old. We’ve been working together in the league, and lots of the girls play on different travel teams.
“I thought we had a really good chance,” he added. “We have a really good pitcher — if you were able to look at all of the pitching from 10 year-old teams in the state, I would say we probably have one of the best ones in the state.”
Jackson said having Kenzie Williams in the pitcher’s circle has been huge for his team.
“That’s what I’ve known since I was little — played and coached, and all of that stuff. It’s true, pitching kind of trumps hitting, and we probably have one of the best ones in the state at the age of 10,” he said. “I knew going in if she pitched well, it wouldn’t matter who we played that we would have an opportunity to be in every game.”
Even though his team never suffered a loss, South Laurel was challenged during the District 4 Tournament’s winner’s bracket final nail-biter against Clay County.
Jackson’s squad fell behind 2-0 before rallying to score three runs in the final inning of play to claim the 3-2 victory.
“Clay was ready to play, and they were really impressive,” he said. “They had us down 2-0 with three outs to go. My girls showed a lot of heart, and were able to push across three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to get us that win. It was huge to get the win because your going into the championship game and you're going to have to lose twice, to lose it.
“They never gave up,” Jackson added. “I’ve coached boys and girls and it’s different. When you coach a girls team, they listen and pay attention, and they’re much more focused at this age. They knew what they had to do, and didn’t go down. A lot of teams I’ve been involved with, you put them down a run or two, they don’t go into it with the right attitude. I didn’t know how the girls would respond, but they responded well. It was one of the best games I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach. It really gives us the confidence moving forward to beat anybody.”
South Laurel was able to seal the deal in the District 4 Tournament’s title game two days later by defeating Clay County, 3-0, for the second time during tournament play.
With the way his players answered the call during last week's District 4 Tournament, Jackson admits he likes his team’s chances heading into the state tournament.
“I really do. Kenzie has been pitching well, and I don’t see any reason for her to not to continue to do so,” he said. “We are going to be hard to beat because we are going to be in every game.
“We’ve got good combination of speed, and good pop in the bats,” Jackson added. “If it’s a close game, we are going to have a really good chance to get (the win).”