If it’s summertime in Franklin County, then the All-Star teams are playing, and they‘re probably winning.
In recent action, three teams won district trophies, and a fourth team earned runner-up status, so there will be four teams headed to state tourney Dixie Youth League play in the week’s ahead.
Here’s a rundown, from oldest to youngest, of district action, beginning with the girls.
The Belles, made up of 13 to 15 year-old girls, including five members of the Franklin County High School varisty softball team, and the rest junior varsity, shut out Blountstown twice on Father’s Day in Wewahitchka, 13-0 and 8-0, to earn a trip to Bristol for the state tourney July 7-9.
Coach Brock Johnson said Jaylin Charles and Alexus Johnson combined on the mound for the win in the first game, and Sage Brannan pitched much of the second game for the victory.
In the first game, Abby Johnson swatted three hits, and Melanie Collins and Alexus Johnson two hits each. Gracie Smith drove in six runs.
In the second game, Charles smacked a three-run home run over the fence in the first inning.
Also contributing to the wins were Ava McAnally, Ariel Andrews, Destiny Proctor, Brooklyn O'Neal, Leslie Escobar, and Kylah Ross. Assistant coaches Shawn Brannan and Kim Johnson were integral to the effort as well.
The Belles will travel to Bristol for the state tourney July 7 to 9. Brock Johnson said the team isn’t planning a fundraiser because expenses are modest to travel to Liberty County.
The Ponytails, for ages 11-12, won the district in Wewahitchka under the direction of coach Michael Gilbert.
“I’m still floating on top of the world with my little ball team,” he said.
In the first game, on Friday afternoon, the team downed Altha 13-3, and on Saturday edged Sneads 10-8. On Sunday they fought back to slam Altha 18-12 after being down 7-0 after the second inning.
“They had a good comeback,” Gilbert said. ”The girls came back out in the third and scored at least 10. In the fourth they got a few here and there, and in the bottom of the fourth, I had them almost 10-run ruled. If I could have brought a runner home we would have 10-run ruled ‘em.”
The team consists of pitchers Joycelyn Escobar and Marissa Gilbert, as well as Hannah Abel, Trinity Taylor, Alexia McNair, Maya Itzkovitz, Alisha Arroyo, Rainey Smith, Jenny Owens, Tariah Jones, Karlee Keith and Casandra Gibbens.
Gilbert said the team isn’t planning any big fundraiser, since the state tourney is in Bristol.
“We’re fortunate it’s not that far away,” he said. “In the past we always have to travel.”
For the Angels, the 9-10 team it was heartbreak, said coach Allen Ham.
“We played their hearts out tonight. We were down 9-1 in the bottom of the first and we battled back and won 11-10 in the bottom of the fifth inning vs Cottondale,” he said. “That was one awesome comeback win. Our girls kept battling and never gave up. We had some timely hits including one home run by Taylor Mallon who had six runns batted in for the game. Sarah Ham struck out 12 in 4 1/3 innings and had one defensive put out at first. I'm super proud of our girls’ focus.”
Later losses against Marianna and Altha sunk the Angels’ chances. In addition, the Darlings, made up of 7-8 year olds and coached by Levi Millender and Brett Johnson, were eliminated in the Distrct 2 tourney in Wewa.
For the boys Ozone team, 11-12 years olds coached by Ricky Abercrombie and assistants Bobby Varnes and Eddie Moses, it was a three game sweep, beginning with an 11-1 victory over Port St. Joe June 10.
Evan Stanley, Wyatt Abercrombie and Larry Winchester pitched the game, with Wil Varnes belting a three-run homer in the game played in St. Joe.
On Sunday, June 11 vs Blountstown, the boys won 14-2, as Larry Winchester pitched, and contributed with a grand slam.
After two days of rain, the boys played Blountstown on June 15, and won 6-0, as Winchester earned the shutout by pitching to all but the last batter, who reliever Stanley got out to secure the trip to state.
Contributing to the victory were Owen Poloronis, Jordan Olson, Mason Moses, Weston Bockelman, Chase Millender, Amonte Austin, Hunter Duval and Ashton Shaw.
The boys will travel to Marianna for the July 15 tourney and are planning a small amount of fundraising.
For the AA boys, for ages 6-8, the team got a second place finish, which still means to a trip to the state tourney in Sebring.
Using a pitching machine, the team is coaches by Willie McNair III, with assistance from Lloyd Alford, Tyler Poloronis and Ronnie Joseph.
The first game June 10 in Port St. Joe was a 13-2 win voer Blountstown, but the next day, the game got rained out against Port St. Joe in the fourth inning, with the Franklin County boys trailing 7-2.
The team came back and finished the game Wednesday, and despite scoring four runs, lost 7-6.
“They played their hearts out but we come up short,” said McNair.
The girls then played Blountstown and won 14-11, and then on Thursday, in a rematch against St. Joe, fell 12-2.
To help pay their way to the state tourney, the team sold bottled water on the island last weekend, and is continuing with bagging for bucks at the IGA stores in Apalachicola and Carrabelle.