Two years ago, a scrappy, motivated group of 8-and-under girls from the Dentsville softball league came up one game short in the state tournament.
They finished as runner-up in 2010.
This year, they have steamrolled through district and state tournaments to represent South Carolina in the 2012 Dixie Softball Angels 10-under World Series, which will be played at 8 Oaks Park in Georgetown.
Play begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the championship on Wednesday. All games will be broadcast live on JockJive.com.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
This is the first time a Dentsville softball team in any age division has represented South Carolina on a major stage.
“It really is a testament to these girls,” coach Sabrina Parker said. “They are mentally tough and physically mature for this age. They have played hurt and not wanted to let their teammates down in any situation. They challenge each other and work extremely well together.”
This team has gone undefeated in 13 postseason games and outscored opponents 126-26, but Parker looks back on a game against Union County in the district tournament as a springboard to their success. Dentsville trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth (regulation is five innings) and had not scratched a hit off the Union County pitcher. After Mackenzie Thackston reached on an error on a slow roller to third, Kendall Parker ripped a two-run home run to right field to force extra innings.
Dentsville later won 6-5 in seven innings on a three-run home run from Hannah Fisher after the Union starting pitcher was removed for reaching the maximum number of innings she was allowed to pitch.
But make no mistake — that one swing of the bat seemed to be a turning point for the 12 girls and the coaching staff.
“If we don’t get that hit, I don’t know if we are where we are right now,” Sabrina Parker said. “Union had a very good pitcher that was faster than anyone we had faced until that point. I knew we had to score at least a couple of runs to be able to win but I didn’t know if we were going to be able to so. That hit really seemed to spark us.”
Kendall Parker, Sabrina’s daughter, remembers it well.
“It’s a moment I will never forget,” Kendall Parker said. “When I crossed home plate and saw all the players and fans going crazy, it was an amazing feeling. We’ve been so close in the past and it was just a great feeling to finally be able to achieve our goals.”
Sabrina Parker is very familiar with this team. At some point over the past four years, she has coached every girl on the team. Being aware of their strengths and weaknesses has been a key to this season’s success.
“It helps a tremendous amount to know these girls so well,” Sabrina Parker said. “With as well-rounded as these girls are, if you don’t have them in the right position, it diminishes your chances. I have coached a lot of these girls since they were 6 years old and it really has been a pleasure to see their hard work pay off.”
The coach said the bond goes beyond the players.
“The girls obviously know each well but the parents and coaches have really come together and are clicking,” Parker said.
Stellar pitching and outstanding defense are the team’s strengths. Parker feels confident using any combination of seven pitchers, but used four pitchers during the state tournament.
Thackston pitched the most innings in the state tournament but was helped in relief by Fisher, Kendall Parker and Maddie Dinkins.
Thackston said the camaraderie among the players is what has stood out to her most. The team received their uniforms over a week ago with the South Carolina logo across the front and she said that was a special moment.
“It was an amazing feeling for all of us to get our uniforms,” Thackston said. “I’ve never been on a team that has advanced this far. We work really good together and it’s more like a family than a team. We excited to still be playing and we think we can keep winning.”
On Saturday, they have that chance.