By MARINA WATERS
The next time you see the Daniel Boone Little League Softball Team, it might be on ESPN.
The team, who recently clinched the Southeast Regional title, is heading to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon where they will play their first game tonight at 10 p.m. EST against the West Region Champs out of Kirkland, Washington.
The girls will step onto the dirt tonight as the first Washington County team to make it the Little League Softball World Series, but for the team’s left fielder, Lillie Walters, advancing as far as they have this year has been a dream come true.
“It was unbelievable,” Walters said. “Honestly, I didn’t think that we would really ever do this. I always watched everyone doing it on TV and I was like ‘I want to do that.’ Now we are and it’s pretty exciting.”
Walters clinched the title for the team when she made the winning catch in the final game of the regional tournament in Warner Robbins, Georgia on Monday, July 30. But she didn’t just catch a pop-up in the team’s 4-3 win over North Carolina; Walters did it all after being stung by a bee, which left her with a swollen foot and ankle.
“It was very nerve-wracking because it was such a tight game. I just had to stay calm,” Walters said. “Whenever it was coming to me, I thought, ‘I’ve just got to catch this and it will be over.’ I was very excited when I caught it.”
However, the team’s initial goal wasn’t to punch a ticket to Oregon; Manager Lori Jenkins said they first formed the team four years ago in order to build Daniel Boone High School’s upcoming Lady Trailblazer Softball Team.
But they haven’t just built the future Lady ‘Blazers squad — they’ve also built unity between a team of girls who all live in the same community.
“Our goal was to build a team for here, Daniel Boone High School,” Jenkins said. “So every one of these girls are all in the same community. They all go to the same schools right here — Gray, Ridgeview and Boones Creek.
“We just wanted to build a high school team. We never dreamed it would turn into going into the World Series.”
After taking home the Southeast Regional Championship crown and enjoying a grand homecoming the night they arrived back into town from the regional tournament, the team hosted a fish fry fundraiser on Friday before heading to Oregon to compete in the World Series.
Jenkins said the team has raised money and received generous help from folks in the community such as Johnny Painter who helped with the fish fry and Richard Tucker from Tucker Drywall Inc. She said it’s all in order to get her team and at least some of their supporters in Oregon.
“Our community has just really stepped up and came through, which is unbelievable. We’re very appreciative of our community” Jenkins said. “The cost of the plane tickets, the hotel cost and the car rentals when you get there is going to be outrageous. We want to make sure that at least one parent of every player gets to go to see this once-in-a-lifetime trip.”
Now that the t-shirts with their unofficial motto “Why not us?” across the back have been sold to supporters and the fish has been served, the team is ready for their next mission — game one of the World Series.
When asked what she’d like to say to those who have supported the team, Jenkins said she wanted to offer “a huge thank you”. She also said that she’s hoping the team gets to thank the community through success at the Little League Softball World Series.
“The morale boost that you’re giving our girls before they go out here on this trip,” Jenkins said, “hopefully it’s enough to make them want to pull through — not only for themselves and their teammates — but for our community.”
Coverage of the Little League Softball World Series can be streamed through ESPN+, which offers a free seven-day trial at https://plus.espn.com/. For more information and to view a complete tournament schedule go to https://www.littleleague.org/world-series/2018/llbws/little-league-softball-regional-results/.
2018 Daniel Boone Little League Softball Team:
Lori Jenkins (Manager)
Freddie Saul (Assistant Coach)
Steven Croley (Assistant Coach)