Franklin County’s Dixie Debs swept through the state tournament last weekend without a loss, and are now poised to represent Florida next month in the World Series in Alexandria, La.
In addition to five straight wins and the state title, for the girls, age 18 and under, Coach Kevin Newell’s squad captured the sportsmanship trophy, voted on by the umpires and state directors.
“Our team had an incredible attitude,” said Newell.
The Debs had lost six players from last year’s state champion team, but drew suitable replacements, including Port St Joe’s Brittany King, whose two three-run homers in the opening game worried opposing pitchers. “She probably drew the most walks,” said Newell.
Anchoring the squad were three returners in their last year - Morgan Newell, Morgan Kelley and Christina Collins.
“They were beyond happy,” said the coach. “Those three were pretty emotional they won state again.”
Also playing were Shannon Pridgeon, Ally Millender, Gracyn Kirvin, Maddie Newell, Ashley Carroll and Marlyn Lee, and Hannah Winkler. Assistant coaches are Matt Kelley and Allen Millender.
Following the July 4 banquet in Hernando County, the Debs opened Friday morning against host Brooksville, winning 15-3 in five innings. Newell and Carroll shared pitching assignments, with King’s two homers highlight of the game.
On Saturday morning, the Debs were victorious 18-14 in seven innings over West Pasco, after they broke the game open with 10 runs in the sixth inning.
“That was just a slugfest,” said Kevin Newell. “We gave up 17 walks, that’s unreal. That’s unlike us. The girls were battling the heat and a tight strike zone and the pitching was just below average that game.
“It was 95 degrees every day. It was brutal hot,” he said. “It rained all the way leading up to it and the fields were a mess, but it did not rain on us any.”
On Saturday evening, the Debs faced undefeated Wahneta, and won an 8-7 squeaker when Kelley smacked a solo home run in the seventh to break a 6-6 tie.
“That was a nail biter, we were pretty evenly matched,” said Newell. “That was a slugfest as well. We had almost five players that went -2-for-3 that game. Everyone kind of contributed.”
Millender pitched five innings, and Morgan Newell two.
The girls enjoyed a day off Sunday, half of them watching West Pasco defeat Wahneta 9-8, and the others lounging around the hotel to beat the heat.
On Monday morning, the Debs sewed up the state title with a 6-2 win over West Pasco behind a seven-inning, three-hitter tossed by Morgan Newell.
“She pitched a masterpiece, had them off balance the whole game,” said Kevin Newell. “We played good defense, got timely hits and timely bunts whenever we need it.”
In the fourth inning, with the game tied 1-1, the Debs scored a pair of runs, after King walked, Pridgeon singled, Kelley walked and with bases loaded, Carroll, and then Collins, each batted in a run.
Two more runs in the sixth sewed up the Aug. 2 trip to Louisiana, to compete against a dozen teams from as many states.
“We’re full steam ahead on fundraising. We need all the help we can get,” said Kevin Newell, estimating it would take between $20,000 and $25,000 to cover the entire trip
“We’re going to start fundraising, bagging for bucks, car washes, and we’re still doing the flocking with the birds,” he said, noting they had sent out donation letters to local businesses.
If anybody wishes to donate they can do it at any Centennial Bank location under “Franklin County Travel Softball.”