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Special to the Enquirer From left to right, (back row) Paige Castrejon, Lola Davis, Zoe Hitt, Aubrey Reed, Lillie Newsom, Lily Douglass, (bottom row) Presley Bunch, McKinzie Cameron, Isabella Gust and Tiger Howell make up the Hartselle Speed 10U softball team.

Speed places second in ASSSA tournament

The Hartselle Speed 10U softball team placed second in the USSSA tournament in Pigeon Forge July 22. The local team played in five games before the championship against South Alabama Elite.

Johnny Howell, head coach of the team, said the girls lost 7-0 in the final game. “We had a great tournament; we just didn’t make it in the last game,” Howell said.

Howell said the tournament hosted top teams from all over the nation. There were about 100 teams at the tournament, with 17 in Speed’s age category.

“We knew going in it was going to be a tough tournament. There were teams that were the toughest games of the year,” Howell said.

The Hartselle Speed is unique in that it consists of local girls who have played together from the beginning, Howell said.

“There are so many travel teams that recruit the top players of different areas, and we don’t do that,” Howell added. “They are really missing out on the camaraderie; they are only getting the competitive experience.

“Our girls are like a family, and they have the camaraderie, but they are also winning and very competitive.”

Howell the friendships and bonds between the girls are what makes Speed such a talented team. “I think that is essential. They communicate well, they know what they are going to do, and they pick each other up,” Howell said. “We are normally the smallest on the field, but we are constantly outperforming the teams that underestimate us.”

Even off the field, Howell said the girls hang out and spend time together, and on the field, they are always ready to support each other.

Howell said he and his assistant coaches encourage the girls to cheer each other up after being called out on the field. He said sometimes they even do so before the coaches walk away.

“It helps them get through those long, hot practices. It is almost like having a coach out on the field,” Howell said.

The championship game marked the girls’ last game as a 10U team, and they will be moving up to the 12U level this fall. Howell said the team was ranked No. 1 in the state for B-class and No. 25 in the nation.

Howell said he is proud of the team for representing Hartselle with good sportsmanship.

“At the end of the game, whether we win or lose, we want to give God the glory,” Howell added. “We tell the girls that the name on the front of their jersey represents their team, and the one on the back represents their family. We always want them to remember that.”