SENC little league teams represent state at World Series games

Published: Jul. 25, 2021 at 8:56 PM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN N.C. (WECT) - Bases are loaded in southeastern North Carolina as several teams prepare to head out of state to vie for the World Series title for their age group.

Next weekend, the Leland, Burgaw and Whiteville baseball teams will be in Mississippi hoping to bring home the national title while the Leland softball team fights for their own trophy in Louisiana. The teams will represent the entire state for their age group, but coaches say the opportunity didn’t come easily.

“Every team has a moment--a signature game to come together and just put it all together to win and we did that Friday night,” said Chris Pearce, who coaches the Burgaw Allstar team for 11- and 12-year-olds. It’s the last year for many of those kids to play for the national title.

“I know the grit, determination they play with and they showed up [when we won the state championship,” said David Thrift, assistant coach of the Leland Allstar softball team. “They gave everything they had. Everything we asked them to do, they did. Everything they did was exactly what they needed to do to play championship softball and win.”

The grand slam of a season took a lot of heart to accomplish with so many obstacles in the kids’ way. The big games come two years after the last season the kids were able to play when the pandemic left fields empty in 2020. The state championship wins were monumental for the teams.

“There’s kids in there screaming that I’d never seen scream before,” said Thrift. They pumped each other up, they kept the energy going. You could see it. You could feel the emotion in the dugout.”

“This group of kids and parents have shown a lot of resilience,” said Dwight Martinez, assistant coach of the Whiteville Wolfpack. “A lot of credit to our organization, Wolfpack Optimist, to having hand sanitizer and taking all the precautions we could take to make everybody feel comfortable to come out here and play.”

For some, the opportunity to head to the World Series was something unexpected. Assistant coach of the eight- and nine-year-olds’ Allstar team in Leland Jared Speight says he never imagined in a million years.

“Honestly, it’s one of the coolest things ever having a son being a part of it,” said Speight. “As a dad, it’s really cool, but even as a coach, it’s been a cool experience.”

The teams are leaving for their games on Thursday and will play for the titles throughout next weekend.

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