The Columbia County Recreation Department has sent a Dixie softball team to the World Series three straight years.
The Athlete Spotlight is on Dixie Bells stars Kassie Bailey, Laura Brown and Brittany Pearson.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
They lost the first two times, but hope to make the third time the charm.
The team that will begin play Saturday in Jackson, Tenn., has rare experience that might be unmatched by the other teams.
The Belles have a trio of girls who will make the trip for the third time.
"We want to win this time more because we lost the last two," said Kassie Bailey.
Bailey, Laura Brown and Brittany Pearson make up the core of a team hoping to finally break through for a title.
The teens have honed their skills as pitchers, with hourly lessons about four times a week in preparation for the series. The girls have also played with the Dominators, a fastpitch travel team in Columbia County.
"All the best players play travel ball, so you have to play it to be as good as everybody else," said Bailey.
This year's team has eight travel players, the reason the girls think they have a better shot this season.
Two years ago, the girls were eliminated in the series in Trussville, Ala., in consecutive losses (16-1, 12-0). The team rebounded to finish third at last year's championship in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
The World Series will be the last shot for the three pitchers who have played softball with the Columbia County Recreation Department since tee-ball.
"This is our last chance because of high school," Bailey said.
If the Belles advance deep into the tournament, the girls will miss the beginning of the school year.
"I really don't want to miss the beginning of school," said Pearson.
Bailey, 13, and Pearson, 14, will again be teammates, now joining each other as freshmen on the Greenbrier softball team this fall. Brown, 13, will enter her final year at Evans Middle this year.
Brown said the girls had fun competing against each other last season during the middle school softball season.
Bailey's Riverside team earned bragging rights by winning the county championship and by besting Evans' and Pearson's Greenbrier team.
"We had fun in middle school playing against each other," Bailey said. "I hope high school will be the same."
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