As wake-up calls go, this one startled the recipients to a rigid state of alertness.
When the District 9 softball all-stars lost their opening game of the Southwest Regional Senior League Championships to Alexandria, Louisiana last Sunday, it felt strange. This wasn’t the way this was supposed to go. These girls were used to winning at this event.
“So that was our first loss in the past five seasons before the World Series,” said manager Chance Bacon, who coached the Robinson Junior League all-stars before taking over the District 9 team. “I’ve been doing this since 2015, coaching these teams, and when we lost that one, I think I had about 20 texts or calls saying, ‘What the heck happened?’”
What the heck happened was this: The District 9 team, which is comprised of players from several local Little League organizations, simply let a lead slip away to a very good Louisiana team. It really came down to one bad inning, as the Louisiana bunch broke out for a four-run fourth inning on its way to a 4-3 victory over Bacon’s team.
But these championship tourneys are double-elimination events, and District 9 wasn’t dead yet. Far from it, in fact.
“Let it go,” said Bacon, when asked what his message was to his team following the opening-game regional loss. “We know we’re the better team. Now that we’ve got that behind us, we know what we have to do to reach the championship game.”
They had to win – and keep winning. So that’s just what they did, and ensured that they wouldn’t have to sweat out another close game along the way. District 9 won its next four Southwest Regional games by a torrent of lopsided scores – 18-1, 12-0, 11-2, and 14-0.
That last triumph clinched District 9’s trip to the Senior League Softball World Series, which will start Monday in Lower Sussex, Delaware.
It’s familiar ground for Bacon and the District 9 all-stars, who have five players who made this same trip to the World Series last year.
“It makes a difference,” said Bacon, when asked about that experience. “All five of those girls are leaders on the team. Not just one of them is a captain, they’re all captains. And they pick each other up. Like, our leadoff (batter) struggled in the championship game, she went 1-for-4, and three or four of those others were all, like, 3-for-4. They picked up the slack.
“We have enough experience and composure that the girls know how to stay in there and finish the job.”
They’ll need all that composure and more at the World Series, where the level of competition consistently tests one’s mettle. Last year District 9 made it all the way to the World Series final before falling to the Philippines, 7-0.
“We’re in a tough pool, but it’s all about plugging away,” Bacon said. “We’ve just got to play with a lot of heart.”
District 9 will open up its World Series run at 7 p.m. Central against the Latin American champions from Coamo, Puerto Rico. Also in Pool A with Puerto Rico and the Waco team are the Asia-Pacific champs (San Miguel, Philippines), the East champs (Levittown, Penn.), and the host Delaware team. District 9’s game and all of the games until the title game will be shown on ESPN-Plus.
Pool B is comprised of champions from the Canada (Victoria, B.C.), Central (Michigan), Europe-Africa (Netherlands), Southeast (Florence, S.C.), and West (Burbank, Calif.) regions.
The tournament will continue through the championship game at 1 p.m. Central on Aug. 4, on ESPN2. Naturally, District 9 is looking to get back to that point and close it out with a win this time. If they did that, they’d join the 2002 Midway all-stars as the only Waco-based team to win the Senior League Softball World Series.
“That’s the plan,” Bacon said.
Who knows? Maybe this time they can avoid the wake-up call.