Nearly a year after finishing around the bottom of the heap in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series, which was then held in North Carolina, the 11-and-under Delaware Diamonds travel softball team returned to the event in ’08, this time in Salisbury, and captured second place.
Improvement is typically the name of the game for youth sports programs.
In that area last month, the 11-and-under Delaware Diamonds travel softball team succeeded.
Nearly a year after finishing around the bottom of the heap in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series, which was then held in North Carolina, the Diamonds returned to the event in ’08, this time in Salisbury, and captured second place.
“Actually, [taking second place] felt pretty good, because the year before I think we were 17th,” explained Diamond player Brandi Dalious, a Harrington resident. “I think we hit the ball better this time.”
Diamonds manager Monnie Hudson agreed with his young player.
“We hit the ball well and got some good pitching,” Hudson said of the difference this year. “Overall we executed well.”
The team did, in fact, get strong pitching from windmillers Shelby Wilkins and Rachael Hudson, who, going into the tourney were the only two pitchers on the Diamonds’ roster.
Both Wilkins and Hudson, thanks to their stellar performances, joined teammates Karlie and Morgan Smith on the All-Tournament team.
“Shelby and Rachel were key for us, because we only had two pitchers we were relying on,” the elder Hudson said. “Karlie and Morgan played outstanding defense, like in the semifinals when they turned two double plays.”
Starting off the tournament, the Diamonds were able to shutout the Central Jersey Lightning 2-0 before knocking off tournament-favorite Virginia Lady Titans in round two.
From there the club slipped a bit against the Birmingham Mustangs before rallying to knock off the Titans again 7-5 in the losers’ bracket finals.
Defeating the Titans set up a rematch with the Mustangs in the finals, where the Diamonds would have to win twice if they wanted to capture the Series crown.
Unfortunately for the club, it fell just short of its goal, as it was able to defeat the champs 2-1 in round one before eventually losing 14-2 in the rubber match.
Now that the tournament has reached its conclusion, the Diamonds will look toward a few more events before the year ends and March brings with it a different season.
And the club, which has gone 56-13 and won the 10-and-under state championship a year ago, will be able to use the World Series experience to its benefit from here on out.
“This year was huge for us in terms of experience,” said Hudson, who hopes to keep the team together for the coming years. “What they learned in Salisbury should help them in other tournaments.”
The Delaware Diamonds organization has been around since 1996, and it features six different age groups for travel teams.
Anyone interested in trying out for the 11-and-under club can contact Hudson at 302-436-4266.