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|Dixie Belles taking on World|
The Ferriday Dixie Belles begin World Series play Saturday in Alexandria as the Belles face Sumter, South Carolina at 10 a.m. in the 13-15-year-old tournament.
"I don't think they have been tested as we have," said Ferriday coach Rut Horne. "I don't think they had a district tournament. They lost their first game in state and had to come back through the loser's bracket like we did.
We just have to go out and play our game and hope it's good enough."
Ferriday's first game will be played at the Johnny Downs Complex, which is located off the MacArthur Drive exit toward Hwy. 28 West.
Horne took the Ferriday Gators to the Dixie Debs World Series in 2002 after that 16-18-year-old team won state to qualify for the World Series in Ozark, Al.
The Gators finished second in the World Series, falling to Tennessee in the championship finals.
"This team has a lot more speed than that team did," Horne said. "Our defense is about on par, but our pitching then was a little stronger."
Erin Hedrick, Miranda Doughty, Amanda Stricklin and Jenny Watson formed a talented pitching combination back then.
But Horne's current bunch have been up to the task and he plans on using the same rotation for World as he did for state.
"Heidi Thornton will pitch the first two innings, Mary Sanders will pitch the next three and Ellen Bairnsfather the final two," Horne said. "Pitchers are allowed to pitch 15 innings in a tournament. This has worked out well for us. We'll also have Molly Devening and Ginny Daggett if we get deep into the tournament."
The Ferriday-South Carolina winner will face the winner of the Alexandria-Tennessee contest.
The loser's of both games will also face each other.
Horne said another plus this state champion team has over the 2002 team is chemistry.
"We have girls from Monterey High, Vidalia High, Franklin County High and Cathedral and they have blended real well," he said. "They can sit down for pizza and have a big party."
The Dixie Belles captured the state tournament by defeating Jefferson Parish Recreation District twice on July 23.
With the team needing to beat the JPRD Westbank Belles twice to advance to the World Series, Ferriday used clutch hitting and smart base running to get their second and final win over JPRD, 3-1, in a span of four hours.
Ferriday won the first game, 2-1.
The Ferriday Dixie Belles advance to the World Series, which will take place Aug. 1-7 in Alexandria.
Ellen Bairnsfather struck out four and allowed four hits to pick up the win in the first game. Heidi Thornton pitched the first two inning and allowed one run on one hit.
Ferriday's Kee Kee Collins had a triple.
In the first game of the night, Thornton, Sanders and Bairnsfather combined to strike out nine batters and allow just three hits.
"All of our state tournament games except two were one-run games," Horne said. "Our kids are used to the pressure. Our pitchers have gone into the last inning either tied up or with a one-run lead."
Seven of the Dixie Belles are left-handed hitters.
"We'll go with our small ball game, which is what got us here," Horne said. "These girls can fly, and that's the name of the game."
Horne will travel back and forth from Alexandria because of work obligations. The team and other coaches have lodging and food paid by the Dixie Softball association.
"I have mixed emotions about it being in Alexandria," Horne said. "I wanted to go to Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia for a vacation. Now I have to come home every day."
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