When the 16U Hernando Youth League Softball All-Stars won the Florida Babe Ruth Softball State Tournament in late June, the team from Hernando County had roughly two weeks to prepare before they left for the World Series on July 17. Normally, that would not be a big deal, but this was not a normal situation. The All-Stars were put in a situation where they had to rebuild a large portion of the softball team after returning home from the state championship. Kayla Bagley, a coach and board member with the Hernando Youth League, broke down the situation heading into the World Series.
“When they came back from states, we got the ticket because we won states to go to worlds,” Bagley said. “Well, something happened, and seven of our girls had to drop out of that team, and we only had a few girls that were left on the world team that could go to worlds. So, the manager of the All Stars for 16U actually had to basically rebuild and make a new team to go to world’s.”
Despite these setbacks, the softball team went on to win five out of 11 games to take the Diamond Bracket tournament for 16U at the World Series tournament. The squad had to overcome yet another hurdle in order to do this, and that was to find a pitcher for the final game against New Kent Softball. The mass exodus and turnover between tournaments left the team a little light on positions. Fortunately for the HYL team, Lilly Connell volunteered and stepped up to the mound even though she had never pitched in a game before. Connell only allowed a single run and three hits, which helped the All-Stars win 5-1 and claim the Diamond Bracket title with the help of “amazing defense” and “smart double plays.”
Individual accolades were also bestowed upon some of the Hernando-based players, as Jayden Russo was awarded a Rawlings bat for finishing the tournament with the second-highest batting average (.538) in the 16U division of the World Series. Other honors included player of the game awards being conferred on different All-Star players after each match, to the point that “almost all of [their] girls” received one.
Bagley is delighted to have the opportunity to share the accomplishments of Hernando Youth Softball with the community, as the staff and players worked extremely hard to balance a difficult schedule. Some days required the team to play two or even three games in addition to all the other complications they faced along the way. She hopes to see this continue in the seasons to come with future children who join the squad.
“The coaches and staff are extremely proud of each and every one of these ladies because they pulled off an amazing tournament and still came out on top,” Bagley said. “A true Cinderella story, except with cleats!”
Coaching Staff and Roster:
Manager/Head Coach: James Brousseau
Assistant Coach: Stacie Laviano
Assistant Coach: Jessica Basenberg
Assistant Coach: Cami Barreto
Team Mom: Jessica DePriest
#7 Makayla Alfaro
#3 Christina Barreto
#1 Lilly Connell
#13 Alvalyn Crisp
#86 Abigail DePriest
#5 Jeliyah Elouis
#6 Kylie Foland
#26 Leigha Haney
#12 Chloe Pritchard
#17 Jayden Russo
#24 Michaela Smith