BRUCE BRANUM/ THE GREENVILLE STANDARD
Two Dixie League ball teams from Greenville, full of talented players from all over the broader community have achieved what no other in history have; they earned the right to play in the 2016 Dixie World Series (DWS). What a “never before” in the history of Butler County it was. Many teams have won sub-district championships; fewer have made it to the state playoffs, but none to the DWS.
This past week, the second of Greenville’s teams, the Greenville Dixie Debs All-Stars (16-18) made the long trip to Alexandria, La. and competed in the DWS. From three teams in city league play, 12 gifted girls were selected to All-Stars. To get to the DWS they had to win the State of Alabama Dixie Softball Tournament, and that’s just what they did.
Head Coach Carl Stanford spoke highly of his team before facing Alexandria, La., the host team Saturday morning when he said, “We have a strong defense to back up our pitchers and I believe we are as ready as we are going to get. The girls have practiced hard and if our bats come alive, we have a good chance.”
Greenville started as hot as the scorching weather with Olivia Foster, Ashlyn McKeown, Savannah Mauch and Danielle Scott scoring a run each in the first inning. The excitement was quick lived as Alexandria answered immediately with seven runs. From there, the game slowly slipped away from Greenville over the course of the next five innings. Greenville did manage to score two more runs by Scott and Emily Brown in the top of the fourth but by the bottom of the sixth the umpires called the game with Alexandria leading 17-6. Top hitter for Greenville was Brown with two singles. McKeown stroked a long double to the centerfield fence and both Mauch and Scott hit singles. Coach Stanford said of the girls play after the game, “We made mental mistakes; we are a lot better team than like we played and we basically beat ourselves.”
With a night to rest and regroup, Greenville came back with a relaxed determination Sunday morning and took the field against Tennessee. It was a 0-0 defensive struggle for five innings in the sweltering Louisiana heat. Bats for both teams were putting the ball in play but standout efforts with girls diving to make catches kept the game tied until the bottom of the sixth. Then the flood gates opened and Tennessee scored six runs off a few hits and a few errors. Greenville couldn’t answer and lost 6-0. Foster, who pitched much of the first game and all of the second, was the top hitter with two singles. Brown and Caitlin Lee got one each.
After the game, I spoke with several people including Coach Stanford and he said, “I’m very proud of the girls, they played like they could. We had a couple of missed plays in the sixth, which allowed the other team to score runs, but overall I’m very pleased with their performance.”
Olivia Foster’s mother Lucy added, “This was an awesome experience and I’m so very proud of the girls. This was something Greenville has never had happen and we are very excited.” Her sentiment was echoed by many other parents and fans.
Gregg Fuller, Greenville Parks and Recreation Director, said, “We are proud of the girls. Nobody can take away this experience from them. I want to thank Head Coach Carl Stanford and Assistant Coaches Matt Langford, Randy Ballard and Hannah Johnson who stepped up to help the team. I also really appreciate the support of a wonderful group of parents. We hope the achievement of making the Dixie World Series inspires and serves as a catalyst for other children to step up and play in the city leagues.”
City Councilman Ed Sims, who oversees the Parks and Recreation Department as part of his service to the council and also made the long trip to Louisiana to watch the girls, said, “I’m so proud of the girls, coaches and the fans that followed. They did a great job and represented Greenville and the State of Alabama with class. There is nothing for the girls to be ashamed of.”