State champ Darlings head to Worlds

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Franklin County is going to the World Series and they aren’t just happy to be going.

The county’s littlest softball girls, the Darlings, ages 7-8, took home a state championship last weekend in Belleview, and now they’re headed to Prince George, Virginia on July 23 to compete at Worlds.
“We brought it home and we’re headed to Worlds for the win, not only the experience,” said coach Leigh Sheridan. “We want to compete.”
Competing in a five-team bracket, the Darlings went undefeated to take the state title, opening with a 14-1 trouncing of Belleview on Friday.
But Saturday morning’s game was moved up by two hours to 8 a.m., and it was against Franklin County’s chief rival, Paxton.
“Paxton ran the bases as good as we do but we beat them down,” said Sheridan.
Franklin County led from the start, but Paxton kept fighting, and in the end it was a close 9-7 ballgame.
Paxton went on to an upset loss to West Pasco, and bowed out, smoothing the path for Franklin.
Later Saturday afternoon, Franklin County downed Okeechobee 13-4, and then in the championship, they repeated their victory, this time for a 13-2 win and the state crown.
“We sent a statement for Friday that we were the team to beat, and my girls crushed the ball and locked down defense, for 51 runs total and 14 runs against us,” said Sheridan, a 2010 Franklin County High School grad who played catcher for the Lady Seahawks from 2007 to 2010.
Teammates on the squad include Trista Wheeler, Shelby Melvin, Kelsey King, Leeah Ward, Amelie Cannon, Preslee Dasher, Kimber Severns, Lexi Griggs, Swayzee Lane, Hallie Zingarelli, Paisleigh Taylor, and Molly Thompson.
Assistant coaches are Jessica King, Shiloh Spivey and Michael Dasher, who handles the coach-pitch duties. “He’s the star, he has a golden left arm,” said Sheridan.
The team had the support of about 50 fans and they made their presence felt. “Our fans and our girls were the loudest in whole tournament,” said Sheridan. “They stayed hopped.”
Because they’re state champs, the team received $5,000 from the county to support their travel to and lodging at the Worlds, which all told could cost even more than that.
An account for private donations has been set up in the name of Carrabelle Youth Athletics at Centennial Bank.
For more information, email Leigh Sheridan at leighsheridan10@gmail.com.

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