When the Lady Tigers 10-and-under youth softball team plays in the U.S. Fastpitch Association World Series next month in Panama City, Fla., it will have at least two things going for it.First, since their 2013 tournament schedule opened in March, the Lady Tigers have a 36-3 record.Second, the team has already won two World Series titles this season.Those championships, though “worldly” by name, were played in Cabarrus County against teams from the North Carolina Piedmont. By playing in the USFA World Series on July 7-13, the Lady Tigers hope to see how they stack up against a larger field of competition.“There’s going to be some hard teams there,” says Abbie Dequilla, a Lady Tigers outfielder who’s going into fifth grade at Mount Pleasant Elementary School. “Some teams are going to be (taller) than us.”The 10-and-under team is one of six of varying age groups that make up the Lady Tigers Fast Pitch Association, which draws most of its players from Mount Pleasant and surrounding communities.In youth softball, age groups are separated by two years. The Lady Tigers organization has one team in the 8-and-under and 14-and-under groups, and two teams each in the 10-and-under and 12-and-under age groups.It is not uncommon for a core group of players to be the same age and spend two years in the same age classification. Members of the Lady Tigers 10-and-under team, for example, were all born between May 2002 and January 2003.They will be allowed to play as a 10-and-under team for the remainder of 2013.Being on the older end of the age group is one reason the Lady Tigers are enjoying such a fine season.Last year the team was much closer to ordinary; but some of the players have been playing with the Lady Tigers since the organization was founded in 2009. For example, Morgan Crowe, a rising sixth-grader at Winkler Middle School, has been playing for the Lady Tigers since she was 5.Dave Maddaluna, Mount Pleasant High School’s softball coach for the last two seasons, is the Lady Tigers’ founder, president, and one of its 12-and-under coaches.Maddaluna says the organization will be fielding its first “showcase” teams (which play in tournaments for the purpose of being scouted by colleges) this fall. Chris Vullo, softball coach at Pfeiffer University, has been tapped to direct that effort.“We definitely push the girls to play in the best competition possible,” said Maddaluna. “We’re not looking for trophies. It’s skill development first, and pushing the girls to do better.”Maddaluna’s assistant coach at Mount Pleasant, Lee Efird, is also the Lady Tigers 10-and-under coach. Members of the team include Crowe; Dequilla; Concord’s Cassidy Wall; Gabby Halloway, a Cannon School student who lives in Huntersville; Haedyn Hill of Asheboro; and Stanly County residents Rachel Efird, Adrianna Efird, Merris Talbert, Shelby Barbee and Hannah Harris.The Lady Tigers have won five of the seven tournaments they’ve played in this spring and finished runner-up in the other two. In early May, the Lady Tigers won the National Softball Association Super Bash in Mooresville, the first time they had won a tournament outside Concord.“In the past year, our strength has been our defense,” said Efird. “We lived and died by it and got the most compliments on it. This year, we’ve stressed offense more. We’ve done well hitting the ball and scoring runs.”As of June 16, more than 100 teams were registered for the 10-and-under division in the USFA World Series in July. Teams will travel from as far away as Arizona and Indiana.Most of the teams are from Texas and Tennessee. The Lady Tigers are the only team registered from North Carolina.
Friday, Jun. 21, 2013
Lady Tigers head to Florida tournament
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.
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