Brooke Buck has heard all about the World Series from her sister. Now, she'll have the chance to play in one.
Kaitlyn Buck was part of last year's Columbia County team that won the state championship in the Ponytails (11-12) division. The team advanced to the Dixie Youth World Series in Sumter, S.C., winning one game and losing two.
"She thought it was fun and challenging," said Brooke, who plays outfield and pitches. "I'm looking forward to actually playing good. I want to win. I want to have fun, too."
She and her teammates will be on the field when the Dixie Youth Ponytails World Series starts Saturday at Patriots Park. Columbia County automatically qualified because it is the host site.
Jessica Ellis, daughter of coach Lester Ellis, is one of two team members who were on last year's World Series team. She said this year's team has come together in the short time since it started practicing.
"At the first practice, we weren't even talking to each other," said Jessica, who plays shortstop. "Now, we're saying bye every time."
She said the World Series experience is unique because competitors come from across the Southeast.
"I was so excited," she said. "I liked meeting new people. We stayed in the same hotel as Florida, and I still talk to some of the girls."
Though the team automatically qualified, Lester believes it would have qualified to represent Georgia anyway had it played in the state tournament. The team is the defending state champion, she noted.
Automatically qualifying meant the team didn't get to play at state. That's a missed opportunity for tournament play, a key in bringing together a group of girls, many of whom did not play on the same team during the recreational league season.
To gain some of that familiarity, coaches Ellis, Christy Leeseberg and Matthew Leeseberg entered the team in a tournament July 17-18 in Conyers, Ga.
The team played in the second-highest of the four divisions and finished third, playing against travel teams. That's impressive, Ellis said, considering most travel teams have been together for years, while All-Star teams come together for one summer season.
"In the last week or so, we've really started to see more talking," Lester Ellis said. "They're starting to understand about what they're supposed to do."
He said the team has several top pitchers, giving the coaching staff more depth. That's important because the format limits the number of innings a player can pitch.
He said the team has several good hitters, whereas some teams might have only one or two.
The tournament features a continuous batting order, so all 12 team members hit each time through.
"We've got a lot of good hitters," said Julie Underwood, who pitches and plays first base and outfield. "We've been working really hard at it."
Christy Leeseberg said the team knew right away that it would be a part of the event, so everyone has been extremely excited.
"We've had them practice for the last four weeks," she said. "It's been great seeing them, most of them strangers, coming together and getting to learn each other's personalities and how they play."
Kayla Stacks was also on last year's World Series squad, so she's one of the go-to girls when her teammates want to know more about it. She said she likes the team's chances.
"I am very excited," the third baseman said. "I think we have a good enough team, and I think we can go out there and maybe win it this year."
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