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Gray team reaches Little League Softball World Series

Douglas Fritz • Jul 30, 2018 at 5:33 PM

Conquering the world wasn’t the objective for Daniel Boone’s Little League softball team when it went to Warner Robbins, Georgia.

But now these girls from Gray have a chance.

Surprising the country, and themselves, the 12-and-under team won the Southeast Region tournament Monday and earned a berth in the Little League World Series in Portland, Oregon. The 4-3 win in the championship came against a team from North Carolina, which put a 19-1 whipping on Boone earlier in the tournament.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Boone manager Lori Jenkins.

The World Series games will be played Aug. 8-15 and can be viewed live on ESPN+, a new streaming service from ESPN. Boone was placed in a pool with teams from Canada, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the Czech Republic. Boone will play Kirkland, Washington, on Aug. 8 at 10 p.m. (EDT).

Despite the 12-and-under tag, Boone was the youngest team in the Southeast tournament with two 12-year-old players, eight 11-year-olds, and one 10-year-old. Jenkins said the team wasn’t planning on winning the tournament.

“We told the girls we were underdogs,” said Jenkins. “Our expectations were just to make it to Warner Robbins. When we got there, our expectations were to win one game. Then it was to win two games. Then our goal was to win it all. I still can’t believe we actually did it.”

Making the title more unlikely was the authoritative pounding by the Salisbury, North Carolina, team in Boone’s third game.

“I think we were in awe of that team at first,” said Jenkins. “That was the team that was here last year. Our girls put them on a high pedestal, thinking they were awesome and here we were the youngest team. When we got them the second time, we had the momentum from beating West Virginia on Sunday night. And our girls just believed.”

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, when Boone got an RBI single from Riley Croley. Josie Jenkins and Kayleigh Quesinberry added RBI hits, and Boone led 3-0.

North Carolina got a two-run triple in the top of the fourth inning, but the batter tried to stretch it into an inside-the-park-homer and was cut down at the plate on the relay from the left fielder to the shortstop to the third baseman to the catcher.

In the top of the fifth inning, North Carolina tied the game. But Boone responded in the bottom of the inning with Kyleigh Bacon’s inside-the-park homer that reached the left field fence.

Boone pitcher Kayleigh Musser retired North Carolina three up and three down in the sixth inning, and the celebration began.

“They were throwing gloves into the air and masks and everything,” said Jenkins. “They were ecstatic.”

Musser allowed just two hits in the complete-game performance in the circle.

“She is quiet and never says a word,” said Jenkins. “But when we got to Warner Robbins, she told her dad this was our year. We all believed it, and Kayleigh pitched the game of her life.”

The run to the national event actually started four years ago. The idea was to build a future high school team for Daniel Boone’s Jeremy Jenkins, who doubles as the Trailblazers’ head football and softball coach.

“We have nine players who were on this team when we started Little League as seven- and eight-year-olds,” said Lori Jenkins. “We wanted to build a team for Coach Jenkins. We didn’t want the team to be split up, and we’ve been together since these girls were seven years old. We picked up the two older girls for the tournaments.”

Little League will foot the bill to fly the coaches and players to Oregon on Aug. 5 or 6. Jenkins’ assistant coaches are Freddie Saul and Steven Croley.

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