The North Ottawa Youth Softball Association entered its all-star teams into Little League this summer hoping to get a taste of some of the best competition in the state.
The NOYSA U12 All-Stars have got more than they bargained for.
The team won the Michigan state tournament this past week, and as a result, will take part in the Little League regional tournament in Indianapolis beginning today.
It’s been a wild ride for the girls and their families.
“I was very surprised. I didn’t think we would make it that far,” admitted 12-year-old Leah Vaughan, who tossed a one-hit shutout in Tuesday’s state championship game win over St. Clair. “Now I’m definitely excited to go and kick some butt.
“I think we have a good chance with all of our players and how hard we work. I think we can go pretty far. We’re definitely more confident now than we were last week.”
Vaughan said that since teams only play one game per day, it gave them plenty of time to play tourists at the state tournament, which was held in Essexville, near Bay City.
“We had fun,” she said. “We walked around Frankenmuth, where there were a bunch of cool shops. We watched The Perfect Game the day before the championship game. I think that helped us a little.”
Spring Lake’s Lindsey Paggeot, 13, said it was tough being away from home so long, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t excited about the regional tournament this week.
“It’s a lot of fun, a good experience,” she said. “I feel like we have a lot more confidence now that we know we can go this far. We know we’ll be facing a lot of stronger teams.”
The state tournament lasted more than a week, and after only a few days home, the team left for the regional tournament on Friday.
“It’s hard, to be quite honest,” said John Hall, who helps coach the team and whose daughter, Ashlyn, is on the squad. “We had parents that were back and forth for the state tournament. It’s definitely a strain, taking days off, because it’s unexpected.
“When you know what day you’re going to be done, you can plan for that. But we literally had to pack up our rooms, and if we won, we had until 6 o’clock to call and say we needed our rooms back.”
The NOYSA All-Stars open their regional tournament schedule against Wisconsin today, then plays another pool game Sunday before an off day on Monday. The team is back in action Tuesday and Wednesday, with the top teams advancing to Thursday’s semifinals.
The regional championship will take place later Thursday.
Wednesday’s and Thursday’s games will be broadcast on ESPN2.
The winner advances to the Little League World Series in Oregon.
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