LAKEWOOD RANCH — At first glance, it may just look like a group of little girls singing a favorite childhood playground nursery rhyme.
But for the 13 girls on the Miss Manatee Softball 8U All-Star team, it means a whole lot more.
It’s a symbol of tradition.
It’s a sign of superstition.
And it’s a celebration of months of hard work and dedication.
Following their first tournament victory at the beginning of September, the girls huddled together in the outfield for a rousing rendition of “Ring Around the Rosie” with the tournament’s most valuable player, chosen by the players, standing proudly in the middle of the circle.
Since then, the girls have repeated the process following each of their tournament victories this season.
Now the Miss Manatee 8U All-Stars are hoping the next time they sing the nursery rhyme they’ll be celebrating a state championship.
The Miss Manatee 8U All-Stars will compete in the Florida South State Championship Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, in Clearwater.
A state championship would only further cement how far the girls have come in a short time.
“I would feel like a million bucks,” 8-year-old pitcher Kelsey Vogel says. “It would show that all of our hard work paid off.”
The Miss Manatee 8U All-Star team came together following the end of the 2013 Miss Manatee Softball spring rec ball season. Following the season, the various rec teams chose players to be on an All-Star team.
The All-Star team decided to stick together and form a travel team. The Miss Manatee Softball 8U All-Stars began practicing during the summer and competed in their first tournament over Labor Day weekend, which they won.
“I was so surprised we won and so happy,” 8-year-old catcher Caitlin Flitcraft says. “We were hitting the ball and doing really well in the field. That’s when I knew we were a good team.”
Since then, the team has posted a 24-2 record and has won all five of its USSSA tournaments.
Most recently, the team went 5-1 to win the Sarasota Spookfest Oct. 19 and Oct. 20, at the Miss Sarasota Softball Complex.
As a result, the team is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the fast pitch girls 9U coach/machine pitch USSSA rankings.
“They’re awesome,” coach Todd Lee says. “These 13 girls are unbelievable. They all contribute something amazing to this team. The chemistry they have and some of the plays they make out on the field are out of this world. They play way above their age.”
Following the state championship, the Miss Manatee 8U All-Stars will play in local tournaments before taking a break for the holidays.
Eventually, the team has aspirations of competing in the USSSA National Tournament.
“We are a very good team,” Flitcraft says. “We are very special.”
By The Numbers
.900 — The team’s winning percentage through 26 games this season.
241 — The number of runs the Miss Manatee 8U All-Star team has scored.
5 — The number of tournaments the team has won so far this season.
13 — The number of players on the Miss Manatee Softball 8U All-Star team.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Food and fun
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and its Young Leaders Alliance have something to talk about: the organizations collected 764 pounds of nonperishable food and $1,295 cash to benefit The Food Bank of Manatee/Meals on Wheels PLUS.
River Club’s Cheryl Kaufman says she’s still pinching herself.
A little “Ho! Ho! Ho!” can go a long way this holiday season.