Local youth softball team finishes second in World Series

North Chilton Intensity 12-and-under all-star softball team finished second in the U.S. Specialty Sports Association World Series in Gulf Shores. Pictured are (kneeling, from left to right) Paityn Lovelady and Shelby Crowson. (Standing, from left to right) Brianna Connell, Gracie Harrison, Kelsey Porter, Bella Gilliland, Katie Beth Payton, Olivia Ellison, McKenzie Cleckley, Ashlyn Blankenship, Macey James and Kyla Wilson. (Coaches, from left to right) Bret Cleckley, John Harrison, Donnie Ellison, Neil Bradford and Mike Crowson.

North Chilton Intensity 12-and-under all-star softball team finished second in the U.S. Specialty Sports Association World Series in Gulf Shores. Pictured are (kneeling, from left to right) Paityn Lovelady and Shelby Crowson. (Standing, from left to right) Brianna Connell, Gracie Harrison, Kelsey Porter, Bella Gilliland, Katie Beth Payton, Olivia Ellison, McKenzie Cleckley, Ashlyn Blankenship, Macey James and Kyla Wilson. (Coaches, from left to right) Bret Cleckley, John Harrison, Donnie Ellison, Neil Bradford and Mike Crowson.

The North Chilton Intensity youth softball all-star team made its first appearance at the U.S. Specialty Sports Association World Series in Gulf Shores, and returned home sporting championship rings after finishing second in the tournament.

The 12-and-under fast-pitch softball team, comprised of players from Jemison, Thorsby, Maplesville and Clanton, placed second in the state tournament in Thorsby and earned the chance to compete against 15 other teams in the World Series, July 16-20.

The team played nine games during the six-day tournament, scoring a total of 121 runs, while allowing only 48 runs.

According to Coach Donnie Ellison, the girls came home with championship rings on their fingers and a newfound sense of pride.

“These girls are used to playing strictly park ball, where you play one game a day,” Ellison said. “It was an adjustment to play in a tournament. They struggled through it at first, but they really came through in Gulf Shores.”

The North Chilton Intensity all-stars received championship rings from the U.S. Specialty Sports Association after their second-place finish in the World Series.

The North Chilton Intensity all-stars received championship rings from the U.S. Specialty Sports Association after their second-place finish in the World Series.

In addition to the second-place finish, three players were awarded a spot on the all-tournament team.

Pitcher Brianna Connell, shortstop Shelby Crowson and catcher Mackenzie Cleckley received the all-tournament honor for their offensive and defensive performances in the series.

Connell pitched all nine games of the series, with three consecutive games on Sunday, including the championship game.

Ellison said the girls showed their dedication by practicing four days a week, for several hours each day, in preparation for the World Series.

Three wins in pool play gave the North Chilton all-stars the advantage of entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed.

During tournament play, North Chilton Intensity defeated teams from Trinity, Decatur, Pensacola, Fla. and Louisiana.

Ellison said the team succeeded in all aspects of the game but excelled on offense.

“Offensively, we dominated,” Ellison said. “We outscored everyone in the tournament. We just allowed too many runs in that final game, but we played great overall.”

Bookkeeper and team mom Amanda Bradford said the girls didn’t know they would be receiving championship rings for second place, making the experience even more emotional.

“The girls have gotten along so well and picked each other up along the way,” Bradford said. “These girls are the epitome of softball sisters.”

Not only did the all-stars gain extensive experience on the softball diamond, but they also had the opportunity to enjoy the nearby beach and spend time with other players during an opening ceremony and parade.

Ellison said they plan to enter their team in a few fast-pitch travel softball tournaments in the fall.

“I hope that we can keep this group together,” Ellison said. “Even when we were up against tough teams, they made some great plays.”

Although they were unable to clench the championship title, North Chilton Intensity averaged nine runs per game in the World Series, and finished their season with a record of 19-7.

“As a coach and a dad, it was a special moment to be able to play for a championship,” Ellison said. “They continued to improve throughout the season, and their hard work paid off in the end.”

 

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