The 10 teams that ventured to Columbia County for the Dixie Ponytails World Series combined to travel nearly 4,500 miles. One way.
In an interesting coincidence, Spring Hill (Fla.) and McEwen (Tenn.) traveled an identical distance -- 438 miles.
The consensus among parents, players and coaches, though, is that the experience of playing in a World Series far outweighs the arduous nature -- and costs -- of travel.
The two that traveled the farthest -- 907 miles for Crosby (Texas) and 768 miles for Sabine (La.) -- had experiences on opposite ends of the spectrum at Patriots Park.
The host Columbia County team routed Crosby, 12-3, in both teams' opening game. Then, Crosby lost to Georgia state champion Whitfield County. Just like that, the Texas state champions were eliminated after only two games.
After its opening victory, Columbia County lost both games on Sunday to fall out of the competition.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana state champions suffered their first loss Sunday afternoon against South Carolina champion Sumter. However, Sabine fought all the way back, winning three elimination games to advance to the championship game.
In the final, Sabine defeated North Carolina champion Burgaw.
"Until two years ago, no softball or baseball program (from Sabine) had made it past state," coach Clay Corley said. "We were hoping not to take that runner-up trophy this time."
Sabine knocked off Virginia state champion South Hill in Wednesday's lead-up to the championship, held later that night. Three teams came into the final day with one loss, and Burgaw received the bye to face the Sabine-South Hill winner.
Sumter finished fourth, making it all the way to Tuesday before being eliminated with a loss to Burgaw.
Pamela Soga, mother of Burgaw's Robbie Murray, said the experience was memorable for everybody involved.
"I don't know if it's harder on the girls or the parents," she said. "It's always stressful because you want your girls to do the best they can.
"By the time you get to this point, it's all up to them."
Sheila Grizzle, mother of Burgaw's Hayley Grizzle, said the experience has been "rewarding," but she put into perspective the commitment it takes from parents.
"All these parents have given up every bit of vacation time they've had," she said. "And you have some people who maybe don't have paid vacation. They're going back home to no paychecks."
To aid travel costs, Soga said fund-raisers produced $23,000 for four Dixie teams competing in the state tournament at different levels. The Ponytails were the only one of the four that advanced to the World Series.
David Davis, father of Sabine's Kaitlin Davis, said he felt plenty of nervous energy during the championship game victory. Imagine how the players felt, he noted.
"They're feeling a lot of pressure right now," he said as the teams were tied in the fifth inning Wednesday night before Sabine took the lead for good.
For Jesse Delatin, uncle of Sabine's Alyssa Delatin, working at his father's body shop means he's fortunate that he can take vacation time without any problems.
He said he looked up Grovetown on the Internet before coming and discovered that it's a small town, but got a different feeling when he arrived.
"I was surprised that there's so much to do around here," Jesse Delatin said. "And the ballparks, this is an excellent ballpark."
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