The 9-10-year-old Northern softball team made short work of its competition in the District 8 tournament three weeks ago. Once the state tournament rolled around, it was much of the same.
The Northern squad took total control of the tournament in Warner Robins, winning all four of its games to capture the state title on Tuesday, July 11. As a result of its unblemished run, the team moves on to play in the Tournament of State Champions in Clarksville, Tenn.
“It really was an outstanding experience,” said head coach Meko Byrd, whose daughter Loreal is on the team. “The first two games, we won with no problems. In the third and fourth games, the girls’ bats came alive about the fourth inning. We just went at it. It was awesome and a great time.”
Northern made quick work of Warner Robins and Toccoa in the first two games then bested West Point by 15 runs in the third game. The team’s fourth game was a rematch with Toccoa, a team Byrd said was on the same level talentwise as Northern. Early on, Toccoa edged out to a 1-0 lead to the delight of its fans in the audience.
“After that, it was history,” Byrd said.
Northern’s bats got going in the third inning en route to a 10-5 victory to seal the state title. Not long after the final out was recorded, Byrd’s players went wild.
“The girls were super, super excited,” Byrd said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them that happy ever in life. It was amazing. It really was. They had a real good time, and I did, too.”
Northern has just a few days before the team hits the road for more softball. The team leaves for Tennessee Friday and plays its first game at noon Saturday against Florida.
Though it is a bigger stage featuring teams from surrounding states such as Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina, Byrd said his mentality with his girls won’t change.
“What I’ve coached all year is to just go out there, play your game and have fun,” Byrd said. “To me, that’s what it’s all about. If they’re not having fun playing the game they love, then it’s not worth doing.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports