Blue Sox compete in first set of games

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Members of the Lake Oconee Blue Sox pose together for a photo at last Saturday’s four-game tournament in LaGrange.

PHOTO: Contributed

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

After weeks of practice, the Lake Oconee Blue Sox youth softball program saw its first live action this past week.

The Blue Sox competed in a tournament last Saturday in LaGrange that pitted them against four other teams. Rain forced the cancellation of what was supposed to be their first action the Saturday before.

The young program, which fields four teams (8-under, 10-under, 12-under and 14-under), went 0-4 during its first day of competition.

“We played a total of four games ending the day 0-4 but, in my opinion, we ended the day as champions because these girls fell in love with the game and their smiles never once left their faces. As a coach, that’s all I wanted to see happen,” said Caroline Sandhagen, one of the Blue Sox coaches. “We learned so much more being in game situations rather than just taking another day of practice. I wish we could play games every day.”

Lake Oconee Academy softball coach Julie Brooker recently told Lake Oconee News that the Blue Sox originally planned to play several games throughout June. However, because of the players’ inexperience, Brooker elected to focus on practicing and teaching players the fundamental skills.

After watching the young players compete for the first time, Sandhagen said she and Brooker decided to keep up the program even when the 2018-19 school year begins next month.

“It only took one real game for them to want to continue playing,” Sandhagen said. “Coach Brooker and I talked about ending the season after [Saturday’s] tournament so we can focus on the high school teams, but not only the girls but their parents, too, have convinced us to continue playing into the fall, which is what I hoped for all along.”

Sandhagen highlighted a handful of standouts from last Saturday’s competitions.

Riley Roberts worked in the pitcher’s circle during every game of the tournament. Beth Harris relieved her for a couple of innings.

Aiden O’Neal shined during the final game of the day. O’Neal secured two popups to end one of the game’s innings and back up her pitcher.

Sandhagen said 8-year-old Madison Newberry confidently swung the bat “as hard as she could every time” despite squaring off against pitchers three years older than her.

Another player made a particularly memorable play and, according to Sandhagen, satisfied a crucial need on the defense.

“In game three, Kenzie Dykes gave me chills as she scored the first run of the game with a delay steal into home,” Sandhagen said. “We needed someone to step up and become a catcher and Kenzie did not hesitate to throw that gear on and step behind the plate. She did amazing and ended up catching all four games. That is not easy in this heat.”

Saturday’s games represented a homecoming for Brooker. She said she was impressed by the way CAMsports, the organization that hosted the tournament, operated the day’s festivities.

“It was a special experience for me, too, especially being back in my hometown of LaGrange, the place where I fell in love with softball,” Brooker said. “I can’t emphasize enough how powerful sports are for bringing out the best in ourselves and bringing community together. As long as we compete with character and give the glory to God, we are all winners no matter the game’s outcome. CAMsports does a fantastic job of conveying this exact message.”

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