Diamond Dolls in Georgia for national tourney

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 26, 2002

Tiffany Fuller of the Vicksburg Diamond Dolls keeps her eyes on a pitch during practice for a national tournament, which starts on Tuesday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/26/02]The July sun drops, cooling the playing fields of Halls Ferry Park as the Vicksburg Diamond Dolls take the field for practice.

Aluminum bats rattle against the cage enclosing the dugout, cleats crunch against packed dirt and the smack of a softball ricochets off a leather mitt.

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All signs that the Diamond Dolls are going to Georgia Tuesday for a national tournament in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb.

The Diamond Dolls carry a 34-11 record and a experienced team into a tournament seething with talent from Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.

The Vicksburg squad has tangled in those areas throughout the year “and beat some from all four states,” Dolls coach Howard Johnson said.

“That’s why we went to four different states to find out if we could play with everybody, and so far they have.”

Tuesday and Wednesday will mark the beginning of pool play to determine seedings for Thursday’s double elimination tournament.

“This gives you the opportunity to play some weaker teams,” Johnson said, “if there is a weaker team.”

The Diamond Dolls experience on the field is one of the factors that keeps them on top of the competition. nine out of the 12 Dolls on the roster play high school softball for Warren Central, Vicksburg High, or St. Aloysius, and eight of those girls have played together for the past four years.

The Dolls have played in seven tournaments since May, placing first or second in five, and finishing no worse than third in the remaining two.

“We’re the first team (from Vicksburg) to win a national bid,” Johnson said. “Last year they placed in the state, but they’ve gotten a lot better this year, record wise.”

Pitching has been a key component to the Diamond Dolls’ success, with the arms of Lauren Anderson (15-5) and Brittany Fuller (14-6), who’s been clocked at 60 MPH.

Defense is the bread-and-butter.

“We live and die on our defense,” Johnson said. “If our defense is playing good, we’ll usually come out ahead.”

If the Dolls have a chink in their armor, it usually can be found in their aluminum bats.

“We’re not the best hitting team overall, but we do a pretty good job,” Johnson said. “We do enough to win.”

Lauren Johnson leads the team in hitting with a staggering .449, and complements her hitting statistics with a 5-0 record on the mound.

The Diamond Dolls have high expectations for their trip to Marietta, but Howard Johnson wants to make sure that the team keeps their heads out of the clouds.

“We want them to have fun, but we also want to go there and make a name for Vicksburg,” he said. “I believe the sky’s the limit.”