Five years ago, Chance Bacon watched from the stands as his daughter’s Robinson team went to the World Series in Portland where they eventually lost in the semifinals by one run. Despite the success from that season, the next year that group didn’t want to compete in Little League ball anymore.
“I was like, ‘What? Well, I’m going to try it,’” Bacon said. “I coached and got lucky.”
Since his first season in 2014, Bacon has led two different teams to the World Series. Well, make that three. He’s currently in Delaware with the District 9 Senior League softball team as they prepare for their World Series opener against Puerto Rico at 7 p.m. CT on Monday.
His first trip to the World Series came in 2015 with the Robinson junior team. Then the next year, with five girls from the West high school state championship team on board, Bacon and his team returned.
“Since we get to pick from Waco and Midway and Robinson, those good groups of high school girls, you know how (good) they are in high school,” Bacon said. “This is my fourth year doing this. I get to scope out the talent. And then you’ve got a list of girls that want to play because they know they always have a chance of making it to the World Series.”
This team of 15-, 16- and 17-year olds from towns around the area is riding some pretty serious momentum heading into the World Series. Last week, at the Southwest Regionals, District 9 demolished its opposition by a combined score of 134-5.
“We didn’t expect it … especially in the state tournament in Abilene,” Bacon said. “There’s a team out of Corpus Christi who is actually really, really good. I didn’t think we’d shut them out both times we played them. Somehow we did. Even the host team from Louisiana. They’re the defending champions of the Southwest Region. They’re all a year older. They won it last year when they were 15-16. Their whole team is back and (a year) older.”
District 9 absolutely throttled that Louisiana team by a final score of 14-2. Of course, Bacon smiles when he thinks back to the way the Regionals went for his group a week ago. And he knows he’s lucky, getting to put together a team from towns in Central Texas that are all so good at softball.
Like West, who as mentioned before, won state in 2016. And Lorena who once again finished just shy of the state tournament this year. And Robinson who had an exceptional year along with China Spring. Add in Midway and West and now it’s becoming more clear why this team is so dominant.
“They play in tough districts. All of them see good pitching,” Bacon said. “We have so much talent to pull from. It makes it fun. I had that group in 2016 that was like, ‘Wow,’ and I didn’t think I’d ever have a group this good. We try to set up scrimmages with select teams and they’re like, ‘Oh, y’all are a Little League team. We don’t want to waste our time with that.’ We went to a tournament in Georgetown and placed second. We lost 6-4 in the championship game out of an 18U bracket out of 70-something teams. They thought we were (just) a Little League team.”
With all of his girls playing high school ball, Bacon works on the schedule to make sure his games don’t start until after the high school season has ended. Once summer starts though, there’s travel ball and select ball to also worry about.
“This age division kind of dwindles down in participation because of select ball and travel ball,” Bacon said. “They kind of suck up all of the girls. Half of these girls are on select teams. We give them the state schedule and if we win that the regional schedule and if we win that the World Series schedule. They have to pick and choose which opportunities they want to chase and then go from there. More than half of my team, they’re skipping out on travel ball right now to go to the World Series.”
While this year’s team is loaded with talent, Bacon had to wait and see how good they could really be. Talent, yes, is important, but so is team chemistry.
“It’s always iffy because the girls have to gel. Usually they’re playing against each other,” Bacon said. “There’s a lot of rivalry. Just like the year before, we had the Robinson and West girls. The first few practices they didn’t like each other. Then this group they gelled almost immediately. The West girls and Robinson girls now are best friends. This year is the first we’ve got a couple of Midway girls. It’s a good mixture. They’re like best friends. It’s fun.”
District 9 left around 7 a.m. Saturday to make its 2 p.m. flight to Newark out of Houston. From there, a four-hour drive awaits. That puts them in Lower Sussex, Delaware around midnight ET. The good thing is that the team is off on Sunday with the Opening Ceremonies at 5:30 p.m., and their first game isn’t until Monday night.