Following up on their wins earlier this month to capture the Little League Softball state championship, the Girard 11-12 All-Stars will be relying on their pitchers when they represent Kansas at the regional tournament this week in Carthage, Mo.

Following up on their wins earlier this month to capture the Little League Softball state championship, the Girard 11-12 All-Stars will be relying on their pitchers when they represent Kansas at the regional tournament this week in Carthage, Mo.
“Our pitching depth is a strength,” said Coach Mark Smith. “Defensively, I think we’re one of the strongest Girard teams in the last five years.
“I think we have four, very strong pitchers. We could pitch and different pitcher every game. I just depends on who’s throwing good that day.”
But pitching alone doesn’t win games. Smith said his all-star girls have that covered as well.
“There’s some sluggers on this team, too,” Smith said. “Some of them can really hit the ball when they put their minds to it.”
Girard will play its first game in pool play at 8 p.m. Monday against the state champions from Kentucky. The rest of the local all-star’s opening games against champion teams from Illinois, South Dakota and Wisconsin will determine their chances to advance to bracket play and an opportunity to represent the Midwest Region at the Little League World Series next month in Portland, Ore.
Only the top two teams from each pool at the regional tournament will advance to bracket play. The one and two seeds from the pools will receive an opening-round bye while the remaining four battle it out for position, building up toward the championship game at the end of the week.
The Girard girls spent last week in practice, preparing for their trip to the regional tournament. Smith said he altered the practices slightly to help the girls gear up for the level of competition they’ll be facing.
“Hopefully, they’re a little more intense,” he said. “A little more challenging.
“We’re stretching what they can do just a little more than normal. We’re pushing it up another notch, I hope. Hopefully, our girls will step up.”
This isn’t the first time a Girard team has qualified for a regional tournament berth. Last year, the local girls went 2-2 in pool play, but fell short of qualifying for the finals brackets and the chance to advance to the World Series and a possible national championship.
“We could go 2-2 and still advance to bracket play, it just depends on the other teams,” Smith said. “I think our chances are pretty good to make it to the final day.”
Smith and his assistant coach, Randy Heatherly, have worked with the girls all week to get them ready for the upcoming tournament. One of the things they’ve been struggling with in practice is keeping the players focused, hopefully to cut down on errors. It’s a problem they’ve been dealing with, Smith said, along side the player’s performance at the plate.
“Once in a while, we struggle batting,” Smith said. “And, with 11 and 12 year olds, you’re going to have some errors once in a while and lose focus.
“Hopefully, the other teams will (have the same problem). At this age, they’re still learning, definitely.”
But, overall, Smith and Heatherly are confident the Girard All-Stars can fulfill their hopes from the beginning of the season.
“One of my goals at the beginning of the season was to do better than last year,” Smith said. “We’re playing other state champions. That’s the only way to make it to this tournament.
“There’s nobody there that’s going to be an easy game. We’ll just see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it.”