The Franklin County AAA All Stars, for boys ages 9 and 10, traveled to Sebring July 14 for the state tournament, one of just two traditional rural teams, squaring off against nine opponents in the Division A class of the Dixie Youth League.
That meant the teams they went up had played a regular season against several different opponents, such as Sebring, which had eight teams in its 9-10 year-old division.
In contrast, the Franklin County All-Stars had just two.
Nonetheless, under the direction of coach Lloyd Alford, and assistants Willie “Shugga” McNair III and Zac Alday, the boys tackled their assignment with gusto.
In center field was Sadiq Jones, with Nolan Alford at second, Jaxson Odom at shortstop, Colby Blackburn behind the plate, Bennett McNair at first base, Chason Martina and JaMichael Miller as utility infield and outfielders, Kadyn Drake at third, and DreKylan North, Jeremiah Allen and Rylan Wood rotating in the outfield and infield.
Firing from the mound was Ajalen McNair, with other possible pitchers including Jones, Odom, Martina, Blackburn, Miller and Drake.
But, as it turned out, youth took its toll.
The boys lost 9-0 to Sebring in the first game and 6-2 to Springhill in the second game.
“With 10 of our players age 9 or younger ensures that the future is bright,” said coach Alford. “They all can return next year.”
The young Seahawks qualified for state by finishing as runners-up last month at the district tournament in Wewahitchka.
The team shut out Wewa 11-0 in the opener, and then edged out Blountstown 6-5, after scoring five runs with two outs in the bottom of the last inning.
Restricted by pitch count, it looked like Blountstown’s ace, who would turn 11 a few days after the tourney ended, would be forced to pitch the next day.
“But lo and behold they get a rain delay, which rests that same kid’s clock,” said Alford.
Bedeviled by that same pitcher, the local boys lost 5-2 to Blountstown, and 2-0 in the second game, and had to settle for second place.
But Blountstown opted not to go to state, and the Seahawks took their berth.
“We’ll be a really deep team next year,” said Alford. “Me and Shugga are ecstatic where this team is. They surpassed our expectations.”