Christy Leeseberg thoroughly enjoyed coaching the host Columbia County 11- and 12-year-old squad in the Ponytails World Series at Patriots Park. Then again, she knows softball games come and go.
The most memorable experiences, she said, are often the ones that happen off the field.
"At the team celebration at Ryan's (Steakhouse), it was great seeing all the girls from all of the states meeting and exchanging the state pins," Leeseberg said. "It shows it's beyond softball. It's more about the friendships they're making."
Those friendships extended to the field Sunday afternoon.
After Florida state champion Spring Hill eliminated Columbia County from the World Series with a 2-0 victory, both teams came together on the field for a ceremony. Columbia County team members and coaches Lester Ellis; Leeseberg; and her husband, Matthew, received medals.
By looking at both teams' postgame demeanor, it was hard to tell which won. Spring Hill's generosity and kind words were appreciated, said Columbia County pitcher Kallen Leeseberg.
"I really hope they win," she said. "They're really nice, and after the game they were telling us, 'Good job.' They didn't act all confident and say they were better than us."
Columbia County opened the tournament Saturday with a 12-2 rout of Texas state champion Crosby. The game was stopped after the fifth because of the mercy rule.
Sunday was not so kind for the hosts, as they lost their offense and two tight games to get eliminated from the competition.
Columbia County fell to Virginia state champion South Hill, 4-2, in the morning contest before losing to Spring Hill in the afternoon.
"Both of the games we lost today could've gone either way," Ellis said Sunday.
Columbia County finished 1-2, the same record the Ponytails squad had at last year's World Series in Sumter, S.C.
After the hosts went down 1-0 in the first inning against Virginia, first baseman Lauren Barnard made a diving catch on a line drive down the line. She alertly stepped on first to double up the runner and end a rally.
Barnard said the play will be her most memorable moment of the World Series.
"I was in position, and I just happened to lean over and I dove for it," she said. "I saw a yellow thing coming at me and I dove for it."
Virginia added three runs in the third inning for a 4-0 lead.
Columbia County rallied in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Sarah Beth Battles and Brooke Buck both singled, then moved to second and third on a wild pitch. After that, Ashley Lunz's single over the shortstop scored the team's first run of the game.
Shannon Cartledge's groundout scored Buck before Julie Underwood struck out to end the game.
In the afternoon, Columbia County's trio of Underwood, Battles and Kallen Leeseberg matched Florida's pitchers through most of the contest, as neither team plated a run through the first five innings.
In the top of the sixth, Underwood, who started the game, re-entered in relief of Leeseberg. Underwood faced a 3-0 count with runners on second and third and no outs.
She fought back to strike out the first batter she faced. Then, Brittney Rodriguez singled just past the outstretched glove of second baseman Alexis Wilkerson-Hadley to score both runners.
They would be the only two runs scored, as Florida held Columbia County hitless in the 2-0 win.
"When they walk away, win or lose, we want to know that they tried their hardest," Christy Leeseberg said. "Coach Lester, Matt and I really believe they did the best that they could."
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